Study series on low back pain published

back pain

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A research series from Australian and international researchers published in The Lancet warns that low back pain is a major health burden globally and that use of X-rays and scans, opioids injections and surgeries to treat the condition is of no use, unnecessary and harmful.

Low back pain is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. Over 540 million people are affected by activity-limiting low back pain at any one time. The burden from low back pain has doubled in the last 25 years. The prevalence of this condition is expected to rise in the future.

“The burden from low back pain has reached a tipping point where the condition is growing rapidly, is poorly understood and is being mismanaged medically – at a cost both to the patient and to the healthcare system. Low and middle-income countries are already emulating the low-value care that is endemic in high-income countries,” one of the lead researchers of one of the three Lancet papers, Monash University researcher, Professor Rachelle Buchbinder said.

The study is also co-authored by Professor Chris Maher, Associate Prof. Manuela Ferreira and Professor Paulo Ferreira from the University of Sydney, and Associate Prof. Mark Hancock from Macquarie University. An international team of researchers was also part of the series.

In Australia, around 25% of people suffer low back pain on any day. $4.8 Billion is being spent annually on management on low back pain. This condition reduces the country’s GDP by AU$3.2Billion per annum, and is the most common condition keeping older Australians out of the workforce.

Back pains and other musculoskeletal conditions are the most common injury type across all industries. One of the most common cause is manual handling. One in three injuries to Australian workers is caused by manual handling. The injury can happen to anyone regardless of a worker’s age or the industry he is. The injuries may happen suddenly as a result of a single event, or the symptoms can reveal slowly over time.

Being one of the most common causes of workplace injuries, the reduction of musculoskeletal injuries in workplaces across Australia has been identified as a key issue that requires tackling.

The papers can be accessed here.

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