HomeHealth ConditionsBack PainHow does back pain progress over time?

How does back pain progress over time?

A recent study carried out in Canada set out to identify and describe back pain groups with various pathways of progression. This new research has been published in Arthritis Care & Research.

One of the most commonly reported health problems across the world is back pain. Research has demonstrated that worldwide, 18.3% of adults report back pain at any time and 39.8% of the general population are impacted by back pain during their lifetime.

A recent study conducted in Canada examined the trends in back pain over time and found the characteristics and the link between healthcare, medication use and these different patterns. They published their results in Arthritis Care & Research.

This study looked at a representative sample of the Canadian population and followed them during the period between 1994 and 2011. During the study, 12,782 individuals were interviewed every two years and researchers collected information on sociodemographics, behaviours, depression history, comorbidities, pain, disabilities, opioid and other medication use, and healthcare visits.

Within this 16-year follow-up period, 45.6% of individuals had back pain at least once. There were four forms of pain within these people: persistent (18%), developing (28.1%), recovery (20.5%) and occasional (33.4%).

The groups with persistent and developing pain were found to have a higher incidence of pain preventing activities, disability, depression and comorbidities. In addition to this, these two groups were found to have more healthcare visits and medication use. The recovery group demonstrated increased use of opioids and antidepressants over time.

The researchers concluded that one in five people suffer from persistent back pain,  which often leads to increased pain, disability, and healthcare use. Further research is warranted to gain a better understanding of whether these different groups require differing diagnoses, which may provide a better understanding and selection of treatments for these individuals.

Written by Jade Marie Evans, MPharm, Medical Writer


  1. Canizares , M et al. 2019. Pubmed. [Online]. [8 March 2019]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30637980
  2. 2019. EurekAlert . [Online]. [8 March 2019]. Available from: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-01/w-set011019.php
Jade Evans MPharm
Jade Evans MPharm
Jade obtained her Master of Pharmacy degree from Cardiff University, UK in 2015 and then went on to work as a Pharmacist within the NHS, across both the hospital and community sectors. In 2017, she began her work for the medical news bulletin and moved to Perth, Australia. She is now working at Perth Children’s Hospital working in the Anaesthetic and Pain Management Research Group.


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