Prevalence: About Low Back Pain

  • Low back pain is the second most common cause of disability in the U.S. and “the leading reason for missing work anywhere in the world.” (Julia Belluz)
  • Approximately 25 to 30% of U.S. adults experience low back pain.
  • In the U.S., back pain (in general) costs an estimated $90 billion a year in direct costs (not including indirect costs such as lost productivity). (Julia Belluz)
  • Chronic low back pain affects 5-10% of U.S. adults annually and costs over $50 billion per year in direct health care (not including indirect costs such as lost productivity). Those with back pain incur up to 75% more medical expenditures than patients without back pain. (Boston Medical Center)
  • The prevalence of low back pain among various racial and socioeconomic groups is similar. However, access to treatment is not equal, thus individuals from low-income and minority backgrounds are disproportionately impacted. (Boston Medical Center)

A Doctor’s Experience

When I was a family doc… every day someone came into my office with the problem of low back pain. And if it was your average run-of-the-mill, muscular strain-style back pain, regardless of what I had to offer, things usually got back to normal in about six weeks. However, for the smaller percentage of patients whose pain did not resolve in that time frame, difficulty often lingered for much longer, and there were a myriad of possible underlying causes to account for the situation… What I had to offer did not seem to be very effective; the patients were also frustrated, anxious and worried about what the future held for them… As I began to explore yoga personally and eventually transitioned into teaching and using it therapeutically with my students, it became very clear again and again how helpful yoga practice is in addressing not only the root anatomical, kinesiological issues in back pain, but also in providing prompt benefits for the mental and emotional issues that arise due to chronic pain: anxiety, depression, frustration and disappointment. – Baxter Bell