The following is a summary of “Global, regional, and national burden of low back pain, 1990–2020, its attributable risk factors, and projections to 2050: a systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2021,” published in the June 2023 issue of Rheumatology by Ferreira et al.
Back pain is widespread and the leading cause of years lived with disability (YLD). We present the most recent global, regional, and national data from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2021 on the prevalence and YLDs for low back pain. Population-based studies from 1980 to 2019 identified in a systematic review, international surveys, US medical claims data, and dataset contributions from collaborators were utilized to estimate the prevalence and YLDs for low back pain in 204 countries and territories from 1990 to 2020. Low back pain was defined as pain between the 12th vertebra and the gluteal folds that lasted for at least one day; input data using alternative definitions were adjusted using network meta-regression. To estimate prevalence and YLDs by age, sex, year, and location, nested Bayesian meta-regression models were used. By conducting a regression on prevalence rates using the Socio-Demographic Index as a predictor and multiplying them by projected population estimates, the prevalence was projected to 2050.
In 2020, low back pain affected 619 million (554–694) people worldwide (95% CI: 554–694), with a projected 843 million (759–933) prevalent cases by 2050. In 2020, the worldwide age-standardized incidence of YLDs was 832 per 100,000 people (578–1010). The age-standardized rates of prevalence and YLDs decreased by 104% (109–100) and 105% (111–100) between 1990 and 2020, respectively. About 38% (28.7%–47.0%) of YLDs were attributable to occupational factors, smoking, and obesity. In 2020, there were more than 500 million prevalent cases of low back pain worldwide. Low back pain continues to be the primary cause of YLDs globally. While age-adjusted rates have decreased marginally over the past three decades, it is anticipated that more than 800 million people worldwide will suffer from low back pain by 2050. Obtaining primary country-level data on low back pain remains challenging, and there is an urgent need for more high-quality, preliminary country-level data on prevalence and severity distributions to enhance accuracy and monitor change.