The global burden of spinal disorders

  • Low back pain is the single leading cause of years lived with disability worldwide, according to the 2019 Global Burden of Disease study. Neck pain is ranked number four [1].
  • Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work.  One study showed that back pain was responsible for 12.5% of all sickness absences from any cause [2]
  • Studies have shown that low back pain can affect up to 25% of adults reporting low back pain in the last 3 months [3].
  • Experts estimate that as many as 4 out of 5 adults will experience a back problem at some time in their lives [4]
  • Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic—meaning they are not caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture or cancer. It can be difficult to precisely identify the structures in the back giving rise to pain – which is why it’s often referred to as non-specific [4].
  • In 2016, Americans  spent an estimated $134.5bn on low back pain and neck pain—more than that spent on diabetes, ischaemic heart disease and falls [5]



  1. GBD 2019 Diseases and Injuries Collaborators. Global burden of 369 diseases and injuries in 204 countries and territories, 1990-2019: a systematic analysis of the global burden of disease study 2019. The Lancet 2020; 396 (10258): 1204-1222
  2. Bevan, Stephen, et al. “Fit for work.” Musculoskeletal disorders in the European workforce. London: The work foundation 2009 (2009).
  3. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Acute Low Back Pain.
  4. National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke Low Back Pain Fact Sheet.
  5. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (2020) Low back and neck pain tops US health spending