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A/Prof Cristina Morganti-Kossmann

Before I describe today’s pathology, the disc herniation of the spine, I will provide a short overview on the impact of back pain in Australia.

Back pain is one of the most frequent medical problems of our population. Low back pain, in particular, is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting an estimated 540 million people at any one time – and causing more disability than lung, bowel and breast cancer combined.

The burden from low back pain has doubled in the last 25 years, and the prevalence of the condition is expected to increase with an ageing and progressively obese population.

In financial terms, back pain reduces Australia’s GDP by AU$3.2Billion per annum and is the most common condition keeping older Australians (aged 45-64) out of the workforce.

The Australian Government Institute of Health and Welfare stated that about 4.0 million people or 1 in 6 Australians (16%) had 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 and 181,000 hospitalisations for back problems in 2017–18. Pain, also interfered with daily activities for almost 2 in 5 (38%) people with back pain.

Another source of information from the University of Sydney, where a group of researchers is studying better strategies to reduce the cost, optimise treatment and improve the outcome of those afflicted by back pain, states that:

– Approximately 25% of Australians suffer from low back pain on any day
– 50% of Australians suffered from back pain in the past month
– Australia spends $4.8 billion per year on management of low back pain

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