Top medical journal names back pain as leading cause of disability worldwide

The Lancet has released the findings of its Global Burden of Disease Study, identifying low back pain as the leading cause of disability worldwide.

The study has revealed that low back pain is in the top ten leading causes of years lived with disability in every country in the world, yet despite this, there has been little policy discussion of how to address and prevent these disorders.

The Back Pain Group at The George Institute for Global Health in Australia is conducting high quality research to address this. Their research is helping to understand the causes, best treatments and importantly, ways of preventing low back pain.

Research projects from the Australian group have received global recognition, most notably with the PACE and PACE-2 projects which showed that paracetamol is no more effective for treating low back pain than a placebo.

Deputy Director of the Musculoskeletal Division, Professor Jane Latimer, said researchers from Australia and the United Kingdom had recently come together to address the primary concerns of both nations around effective treatment.

“The Lancet study shows what an important issue back pain is for the world and that to find effective solutions we must build strong international collaborations where musculoskeletal researchers, clinicians, consumers and policy makers can work together ” Professor Latimer said.

“It is incredibly important, but also exciting, to share ideas with others across the world, to agree on the important questions in the back pain field, and to work together in the search for answers.

“Primarily, both nations are concerned with the high number of spinal surgical procedures performed on older people with back pain despite there being little evidence of effect, the widespread prescription of paracetamol as pain relief for patients presenting with simple backache and the best ways to prevent back pain in those who have already suffered an episode.

Professor Latimer recently returned from The University of Oxford where she met with UK experts including Professor Alan Silman, Professor Sallie Lamb and Mr Dominique Rothenfluh from the Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Disease at the University of Oxford, Professor Nadine Foster and Jonathan Hill, senior back pain researchers at Keele University, and expert in chronic disease prevention and management, Dr Amanda Hall from the George Institute UK.