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Understanding the Global Burden of Low Back Pain: A Look into the Future

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

Low back pain is a prevalent condition that affects millions of people worldwide and is a leading cause of disability. In a recent study published in the Lancet, "Global, regional, and national burden of low back pain, 1990–2020, its attributable risk factors, and projections to 2050: a systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2021, researchers examined the current state of low back pain and projected its future impact. The study provides valuable insights into the prevalence and years lived with disability (YLDs) related to low back pain, as well as the factors contributing to its burden. Let's delve into the findings and implications of this study for chiropractic patients. Prevalence and Burden: The study revealed that in 2020, low back pain affected a staggering 619 million people globally. However, the projections are even more concerning, with an estimated 843 million prevalent cases expected by 2050. This highlights the persistent and increasing burden of low back pain on individuals worldwide. Additionally, the global age-standardized rate of YLDs in 2020 was 832 per 100,000 people. Decreasing Rates: While the overall prevalence of low back pain remains high, there is a glimmer of hope. The study found that between 1990 and 2020, age-standardized rates of prevalence and YLDs decreased by approximately 10%. This suggests that efforts to address low back pain and promote effective treatments have had some positive impact. However, there is still work to be done to alleviate the burden of this condition. Contributing Factors: The study identified several risk factors that contribute to the burden of low back pain. Occupational factors, such as ergonomic issues in the workplace, accounted for a significant portion of YLDs (38.8%). Other factors, including smoking and high body mass index (BMI), also played a role in exacerbating the condition. Recognizing and addressing these modifiable risk factors could help reduce the burden of low back pain. Implications for Chiropractic Patients: For chiropractic patients, this study underscores the importance of seeking effective and evidence-based management strategies for low back pain. Chiropractic care offers a non-invasive and drug-free approach to treating low back pain, focusing on spinal manipulation and other manual therapies, as well as an emphasis on self-management through exercise and lifestyle change. Patients can benefit from chiropractors' expertise in diagnosing and managing low back pain, as well as providing guidance on lifestyle modifications, exercises, and ergonomic adjustments to minimize the risk of recurrence. The Way Forward: The study emphasizes the need for increased awareness, accurate data collection, and continued research on low back pain. It calls for more high-quality, primary, country-level data to improve accuracy in estimating prevalence and monitoring changes over time. This information can guide policymakers, healthcare providers, and researchers in developing targeted interventions and preventive strategies to reduce the global burden of low back pain. Conclusion: Low back pain remains a significant health issue globally, with a projected increase in prevalence by 2050. As a chiropractic patient, staying informed about the latest research on low back pain can empower you to make informed decisions about your healthcare. Chiropractic care, with its focus on holistic and patient-centered approaches, can play a crucial role in managing and preventing low back pain. By addressing modifiable risk factors and seeking effective treatments, we can work towards reducing the burden of this condition and promoting better spinal health for all.

Sources: Ferreira M et al, Global, regional, and national burden of low back pain, 1990–2020, its attributable risk factors, and projections to 2050: a systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2021. The Lancet Rhematology June 2023. Available from:

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