The Prevalence of Back Pain

UCSF Radiologist Dr. Hess describes how common back pain is one of the primary medical issues in the country.

Epidemiology of Back and Neck Pain in the US

  • 80% or 4/5 lifetime prevalence on any given day
  • 33% or 1/3rd has point prevalence 
  • 80% will resolve by 6 weeks (but 60% recur within 6 months).
  • 7% become chronic
  • #2 cause of primary care physician visits.
  • $30 billion-85 billion include lost work. 
  • 300,000 surgeries/year- Rate of surgery are also increasing but unfortunately neither imaging nor surgery is addressing the problem.


Alexander R. Margulis Distinguished Professor and Chair
Professor and Chair

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