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Chiropractic Research Review

Prevalence and Predictors of Neck and Back Pain

Musculoskeletal disorders place considerable burden on both primary and secondary health care resources. Previous research has investigated the prevalence of back and neck pain, although factors predicting disability have been less thoroughly evaluated.

This study sought to estimate the prevalence of all reported and clinically significant spinal pain, and to identify independent predictors of spinal pain.

Researchers sampled 5,752 patients from three United Kingdom general practices. Patients were surveyed in three phases: Phase I involved a screening questionnaire to assess the prevalence of musculoskeletal pain; phase II asked about pain severity and disability; and phase III involved an examination.

Results from the phase I questionnaire revealed that 1,481 participants (of 4,515 total respondents) reported spinal pain, with 960 identifying it as their predominant pain site. Phase II survey response rates were 83.7% (back pain) and 85.6% (neck pain); phase II results revealed that approximately 12.7% of women had intense back pain; 10.7% had disabling back pain; 12.3% had chronic back pain; and 6.2% had intense, disabling, chronic back pain. Phase II results for men were lower: 9.4% reported intense back pain; 7.3% disabling back pain; 10.5% chronic back pain; and 3.9% intense, disabling, chronic back pain. Other factors involved in spinal pain and disability included age, female gender (neck pain only), high body mass index, living in a "material deprivation" demographic, and south Asian ethnicity.

Conclusion: Obesity was found to be a primary factor involved with back pain and its severity, and the authors note that the prevalence of disability associated with spinal pain continues to rise with age.

Webb R, Brammah T, Lunt M, Urwin M, Allison T, Symmons D. Prevalence and predictors of intense, chronic, and disabling neck and back pain in the UK general population. Spine 2003:28, pp1195-1202.

Chiropractic Research Review

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