This study investigated the prevalence of back pain, disability, and, of most importance, the presence of misconceptions about low back pain (LBP), its diagnosis and treatment in a bicultural community sample (Belgium). Using the Graded Chronic Pain Scale [Pain 50 (1992) 133] persons were classified according to pain intensity and disability in five subgroups. The interrelationship between LBP beliefs and these five subgroups was also investigated. In our sample (n=1624) the 6-month prevalence of low back pain was 41.8%. Only in 8.2% back pain was disabling. Misconceptions about back pain were widespread, even in the group reporting no back pain. The least misconceptions were found to exist in participants with mild LBP without disability. It is suggested that recovery from an episode of acute low back pain is an active process that involves a correction of beliefs about harm, about the need to restrict physical activities and about medical diagnosis and cure. Finally, it is argued that community actions may be useful to correct LBP myths in order to prevent the development of long-term disability due to LBP.