A population-based survey of back pain beliefs in Canada

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2006 Aug 15;31(18):2142-5. doi: 10.1097/01.brs.0000231771.14965.e4.


Study design: Population-based survey.

Objectives: To assess the back pain beliefs in 2 provinces in Canada to inform a population-based educational campaign.

Summary of background data: Beliefs, attitudes, and recovery expectations appear to influence recovery from back pain, yet prevailing public opinions about the condition have been little studied.

Methods: Telephone surveys were conducted with 2400 adults in 2 Canadian provinces. Surveys included the Back Beliefs Questionnaire, and additional questions concerning age, gender, recent and lifetime back pain, coping strategies for back pain, and awareness and persuasiveness of media information concerning back pain.

Results: A high prevalence of back pain was reported, with a lifetime prevalence of 83.8%, and 1-week prevalence of 34.2%. Generally, a pessimistic view of back pain was held. Most agreed that back pain makes everything in life worse, will eventually stop one from working, and will become progressively worse with age. Mixed opinions were observed regarding the importance of rest and staying active. A significant minority (12.3%) reported taking time off from work for their last back pain episode. Those individuals taking time off from work held more negative back pain beliefs, including the belief that back pain should be rested until it gets better.

Conclusions: Public back pain beliefs in the 2 Canadian provinces sampled are not in harmony with current scientific evidence for this highly prevalent condition. Given the mismatch between public beliefs and current evidence, strategies for reeducating the public are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Back Pain / epidemiology
  • Back Pain / psychology*
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Prevalence
  • Telephone