Eight out of ten people get significant back pain sometime in their lives. An orthopedic surgeon once said to me ‘there are only two types of people in this world, those with back pain and those who are going to get back pain.’ Half of them will get back pain before the age of 30 and in 85 to 95 % of the cases the cause of the back pain is unknown. This is sometimes called non-specific back pain.
Back pain can be a very debilitating problem with great stress and cost to the individual, their family and their employer. It puts a huge strain on the community and the government and the health system. Numerous therapies have been developed to try to help people with back pain. There have been a lot of claims of good successes with certain therapies or exercises but research studies have not shown any therapy that is far superior than the others.
30 to 40% of the adult population has back pain at any one time so this is a very common problem. Often the people without back pain don’t see what the fuss is about until they get it themselves. The recovery rate is worse than commonly suggested with a study (BMJ 1998) showing complete recovery of only 21% in 3 months and 25% in one year. Recurrence rates is also dismal with a study (A Barton 2005) showing a recurrence of problems of 66% after only one year. Without knowing the underlying cause of back pain, we are having difficulty curing back pain and preventing it from returning.