10/15/2009 - News

Many Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain Recover Within a Year

By: June Chen, MD


Chronic low back pain, or low back pain lasting at least three months,is a major health problem, affecting 12 to 33 percent of the adult population at any given time. The prognosis of chronic low back pain is uncertain, but according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal, more than one third of patients with chronic low back pain recover within 12 months.

Researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia sampled 973 patients presenting to primary care with complaints of low back pain of less than 2 weeks’ duration. Of these patients, 406 participants went on to experience low back pain for three months. The researchers found that, among those participants who developed chronic low back pain, 35 percent were pain-free at nine months and 41 percent were pain-free at 12 months. Delayed recovery was linked to previous sick leave due to low back pain, high disability or pain intensity levels, lower levels of education, and greater perceived risk of persistent pain.
It is estimated that 11 to 84 percent of people will experience chronic low back pain at some point in their lives. Based on the findings of this study, many patients with recent onset, non-radicular chronic low back pain will recover fully within 12 months. A limitation of this study was that it only included Australian participants. However, this study does offer a moderately optimistic outlook for patients with chronic low back pain, as long as they do not have the characteristics associated with delayed recovery.


BMJ. Published online October 6, 2009.

Created on: 10/15/2009
Reviewed on: 10/15/2009

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)
Anonymous wrote 2 years 15 weeks ago

Prior to this study it was actually well known that 25-50% of people suffering from back pain will actually have no pain within a year. The problem, however, is the fact that if nothing is done most of these people will have recurring back pain. Improved postural awareness, lifting mechanics, and trunk strengthening usually must be performed to prevent the recurring episodes.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss (recurring) low back pain please contact me at [email protected] or on Twitter at mscottdpt.

Mike Scott, DPT

Anonymous wrote 2 years 16 weeks ago

The other way of looking at this is 60% don't recover in one year. Now I know that chronic means that it's long lasting, but that sounds pretty bad to me.

Everyone should do their best to look after their spines in the first place to reduce their risk of developing back pain. I'm not talking extreme steps like Alexander Technique courses, just simple things - lift properly, keep fit and active and at a sensible weight, make sure your mattress is in good nick, and sit in a good posture.

Dr Phil Worthington

(this comment was moderated by the admin)