This descriptive review provides a summary of the prevalence, activity limitation (disability), care-seeking, natural history and clinical course, treatment outcome, and costs of low back pain (LBP) in primary care. LBP is a common problem affecting both genders and most ages, for which about one in four adults seeks care in a six-month period. It results in considerable direct and indirect costs, and these costs are financial, workforce and social. Care-seeking behaviour varies depending on cultural factors, the intensity of the pain, the extent of activity limitation and the presence of co-morbidity. Care-seeking for LBP is a significant proportion of caseload for some primary-contact disciplines. Most recent-onset LBP episodes settle but only about one in three resolves completely over a 12-month period. About three in five will recur in an on-going relapsing pattern and about one in 10 do not resolve at all. The cases that do not resolve at all form a persistent LBP group that consume the bulk of LBP compensable care resources and for whom positive outcomes are possible but not frequent or substantial.