This paper describes a number of epidemiological findings relating to the size of the back pain problem within nursing, its distribution across nursing specialties and the comparison of these data with other occupational groups. The extent of the problem within the nursing profession has been estimated through a number of research studies. Unfortunately these studies cannot be easily compared because of differing methodologies and criteria for identifying those with back pain and inconsistent use of prevalence and incidence data. Results from a study of 3912 NHS nurses are considered in detail as is the extent to which back pain is a contributory factor in the decision of nurses to leave the profession. The use of epidemiological methods to identify factors associated with the occurrence of the disorder has also been discussed, although the difficulty of quantifying exposure for factors such as postural requirements necessitates caution in their interpretation.