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Low back pain: leading cause of disability worldwide

According to a series of studies undertaken by the Global Burden of Disease 2010 Project, musculoskeletal conditions, particularly back and neck pain are a leading cause of disability worldwide. Low back pain, in particular, is the number-one cause of disability worldwide, while neck pain is the number-four cause.

Compared to 20-30 years ago, disability has made an increasingly large impact worldwide. And with more people living longer nowadays, there is an increasing risk of living under the burden of pain, disability and disease.

The following are some highlights from the study:

  • More than 1.7 billion people worldwide are affected by musculoskeletal conditions like low back pain, neck pain and arthritis, a greater impact that HIV/AIDS, tropical diseases, natural disasters, war and all neurological conditions combined
  • Musculoskeletal disorders cause 21.3 percent of all years lived with disability, followed by mental and behavioral disorders, which account for 22.7 percent of years lived with disability
  • Musculoskeletal conditions are the sixth leading cause of death and disability worldwide
  • Low back pain accounts for nearly one-half of all musculoskeletal years lived with disability. Neck pain accounts for one-fifth of one-fifth of musculoskeletal years lived with disability
  • Low back pain is the sixth most significant contributor to the global disease burden for death and disability
  • It is estimated that 632,045,000 people worldwide suffer from low back pain and 332,049,000 suffer from neck pain

From this data, it is clear that musculoskeletal conditions contribute greatly to the global disease burden. It is hoped that this information will prompt policy-makers to devote more public resources to assisting those who struggle with these conditions, through Social Security Disability and other public programs.

Source: Dynamic Chiropractic, "Back Pain Is #1 Cause of Disability Worldwide," Peter W. Crownfield, February 15, 2012.

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