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Low Back Pain is the No.1 Leading Cause of Disability Worldwide

Update Date: Mar 26, 2014 09:39 AM EDT

Low back pain has been crowned the number one leading cause of disability throughout the world. According to the data from a new study, low back pain affects around one in 10 people. In another study conducted by a different group of researchers, the team examined how this disability factored into people's positions at varying jobs. The researchers concluded that an aching back could be tied to roughly one-third of all work-related disability.

"Back pain is the number one cause of lost work days in the U.S," commented Dr. Anders Cohen, chief of neurosurgery and spine surgery at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, in New York City. Cohen was not involved with the study.

In the first study, the researchers headed by Damian Hoy, a senior research fellow at the University of Queensland's School of Population Health, in Australia analyzed 117 published studies that involved low back pain. The team also examined surveys that were conducted about back pain in 50 countries.

The researchers were able to compare the frequency of low pack pain to 291 other health conditions. They concluded that low back pain is the number one cause of disability, affecting 9.4 percent of all people worldwide in 2010. The team found that men were more likely to report suffering from low back pain than women. A little over10 percent of men had an aching back whereas only 8.7 percent of women did.

"Low back pain is something that almost all people experience at some point in their lives. It is something common across sexes, age groups, countries, socioeconomic groups, education levels and occupation," said the lead author of the first study, Hoy. "For the majority of people with low back pain, the specific cause is unclear. There are certain factors that seem to put people at risk of having low back pain."

In the study, the researchers also examined back pain frequency according to geographic regions. They found that people living in Western Europe had the highest prevalence of back pain at 15 percent. People from North Africa/Middle East had the second highest reports of back pain with 14.8 percent. The lowest prevalence of back pain, at 6.5 percent, was in the Caribbean. The prevalence rates for Central Latin America and in the high-income areas of North America were 6.6 percent and 7.7 percent respectively.

In the second study beaded by Dr. Tim Driscoll from the University of Sydney in Australia, the researchers examined data from 187 countries over the time frame of 1990 to 2010. They found that low back pain was responsible for over a-third of all work-related disability. The researchers reported that people working in agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, fishing and hunting had a four times greater risk of developing an aching back than people in other professions. The team added that people in clerical work had the lowest rates.

"The average young adult may be athletic and in pretty good shape," Cohen said according to WebMD. "Once you get into your job life, you may not keep up your normal fitness level and combine that with aging and then exercising a lot on the weekends, and you end up with a situation that's not good for your back."

Both studies were published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

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