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Abstract

Objective

To perform a systematic review of the global prevalence of low back pain, and to examine the influence that case definition, prevalence period, and other variables have on prevalence.

Methods

We conduced a new systematic review of the global prevalence of low back pain that included general population studies published between 1980 and 2009. A total of 165 studies from 54 countries were identified. Of these, 64% had been published since the last comparable review.

Results

Low back pain was shown to be a major problem throughout the world, with the highest prevalence among female individuals and those aged 40–80 years. After adjusting for methodologic variation, the mean ± SEM point prevalence was estimated to be 11.9 ± 2.0%, and the 1-month prevalence was estimated to be 23.2 ± 2.9%.

Conclusion

As the population ages, the global number of individuals with low back pain is likely to increase substantially over the coming decades. Investigators are encouraged to adopt recent recommendations for a standard definition of low back pain and to consult a recently developed tool for assessing the risk of bias of prevalence studies.