Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020) Back problems, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 30 June 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Back problems. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/back-problems
Back problems. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 25 August 2020, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/back-problems
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Back problems [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020 [cited 2022 Jun. 30]. Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/back-problems
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2020, Back problems, viewed 30 June 2022, https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/chronic-musculoskeletal-conditions/back-problems
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Back problems are a range of conditions related to the bones, joints, connective tissue, muscles and nerves of the back. Back problems are a significant cause of disability and lost productivity.
Pain at least "moderately" interfered with daily activities for almost 2 in 5 (38%) people with back problems in 2017–18
In 2015, back pain was the 2nd leading cause of disease burden, accounting for 4.1% of Australia’s total disease burden
In 2017–18, there were 181,000 hospitalisations for back problems
About 4.0 million people or 1 in 6 Australians (16%) had back problems in 2017–18
'Back problems’ describes a range of conditions related to the bones, joints, connective tissue, muscles and nerves of the back. These conditions can affect the neck (cervical spine), upper back (thoracic spine) and lower back (lumbar spine) as well as the sacrum and tailbone (coccyx).
Back problems reported on these web pages include:
Note back problems associated with another condition, such as osteoporosis are not included. For this reason, the total prevalence of back problems is likely to be underestimated.
Back problems include:
Back problems can have many causes, relating to work, sport and lifestyle issues, injuries, diseases such as arthritis, disc disease and osteoporosis. Sometimes back pain is the result of a health condition beyond the spine such as a kidney stone or shingles. Factors that may increase the risk of developing back problems include age, physical fitness, smoking, being overweight, and the type of work a person does (ABS 2019).
Pain is the main symptom in most back problems. Back problems are a common reason for pain among younger and middle-aged adults, but can start in childhood (Raspe et al. 2004). Back problems are often recurrent and may need to be managed as a long-term health condition.
About 4.0 million Australians (16% of the total population) have back problems, based on self-reported data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017–18 National Health Survey (NHS).
Back problems are least common among people from birth to age 24 (Figure 2). The overall prevalence of back problems, after accounting for differences in age, is similar for males (16%) and females (15%).
Note: refers to people who self-reported having back pain and problems (current and long term).
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS 2019a (Data table).
According to self-reported data from to the ABS 2018–19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS), the prevalence of back problems among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 13%, affecting about 102,000 people —including about 14,000 who live in remote areas (9.4% of the remote Indigenous population).
After adjusting for age, males and females had similar rates of back pain and problems (17% each). The proportion of Indigenous Australians (17%) and non-Indigenous Australians (16%) affected was also similar (Figure 3).
Note: Rates are age-standardised to the Australian population as at 30 June 2001.
Source: ABS 2019 (Data table).
According to self-reported data from the 2017–18 National Health Survey, prevalence of back problems was similar in Major cities (16%), Inner regional (17%) and Outer regional and Remote (15%) areas of Australia. Those living in the lowest socioeconomic areas were 1.4 times as likely to have back problems compared with those living in the highest socioeconomic areas (18% and 13%) (Figure 4).
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS 2019b (Data table).
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2019a. National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: First Results, Australia, 2018–19. ABS cat. no. 4715.0. Canberra: ABS.
ABS 2019b. Microdata: National Health Survey, 2017–18, detailed microdata, DataLab. ABS cat. no. 4324.0.55.001. Canberra: ABS. Findings based on AIHW analysis of ABS microdata.
Raspe H, Matthis C, Croft P & O'Neill T 2004. Variation in back pain between countries: the example of Britain and Germany. Spine 29:101–1021.
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