Care-seeking among individuals with chronic low back pain

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1995 Feb 1;20(3):312-7. doi: 10.1097/00007632-199502000-00009.


Study design: This was a stratified, random telephone survey of adults in North Carolina.

Objective: To determine the prevalence of chronic low back pain and the extent to which treatment is sought for this condition.

Summary of background data: Chronic low back pain is a major problem. Previous studies often have combined acute and chronic back pain.

Methods: Telephone interviews regarding back pain were conducted with 4437 North Carolina adults during 1992.

Results: Chronic back pain affects 3.9% of the North Carolina population. Thirty-four percent considered themselves permanently disabled and 52% assessed their overall health as fair or poor. The median number of bed-disability days per year was three. Seventy-three percent saw a health care provider. Of those who sought care, 91% saw a medical doctor, 29% saw a physical therapist, and 25% saw a chiropractor. Use of technology was extensive: 37% received a computed tomography scan, 25% received a magnetic resonance imaging scan, and 10.4% underwent surgery.

Conclusions: Chronic back pain is common, and the level of care-seeking and costs of care among those afflicted are extremely high.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Direct Service Costs
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Low Back Pain / economics
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Low Back Pain / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies