Low back pain is a major burden to society. Many people will experience an episode of low back pain during their life. Some people develop chronic low back pain, which can be very disabling. Low back pain is associated with high direct and indirect costs. Recent epidemiological data suggest that there is a need to revise our views regarding the course of low back pain. Low back pain is not simply either acute or chronic but fluctuates over time with frequent recurrences or exacerbations. Also, low back pain may frequently be part of a widespread pain problem instead of being isolated, regional pain. Although epidemiological studies have identified many individual, psychosocial and occupational risk factors for the onset of low back pain, their independent prognostic value is usually low. Similarly, a number of factors have now been identified that may increase the risk of chronic disability but no single factor seems to have a strong impact. Consequently, it is still unclear what the most efficient strategy is for primary and secondary prevention. In general, multi-modal preventative approaches seem better able to reflect the clinical reality than single-modal interventions.