Back pain in the general population of Catalonia (Spain). Prevalence, characteristics and therapeutic behavior

A. Bassols, F. Bosch, M. Campillo, J. E. Baños

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39 Citations (Scopus)


BACKGROUND: Back pain is a common symptom of health assistance in Western countries. The goal of the present survey was to establish the prevalence of back pain in the general population in Catalonia, as well as to establish its characteristics, its relationship to sociodemographic variables, the therapeutic behavior followed by those affected and the associated-impairment and disabilities for the sufferers. METHODS: The survey was a descriptive study including a sample of 1,964 people, obtained from the census (1991) and representative of the population older than 18 years. The study was done in 1994 and data were obtained by means of a telephone interview. The prevalence of pain in the last six months was determined. Among those suffering back pain, additional information was obtained concerning its characteristics, the relationship with socio-demographic variables, the therapeutic behaviors used by patients, and the personal, social and work impairment and disabilities. RESULTS: Back pain was highly prevalent (50.9%), appeared in all ages (mean age of 47.6 years), was the highest in women (60.7%), in manual workers (54.9%) and in those less educated (71.1%). Back pain was long lasting (69.2% more than 3 years), frequent (49.7% more than the half of the days), and highly painful (severe-unbearable in 51.4%). The therapeutic behaviors most commonly used were the visit to the physician (71.9%), the use of alternative medical treatments (24.7%), physical therapy (22.7%, physical exercises and electrotherapy) and self-medication (14.6%, being acetylsalicylic acid the most employed). In general, the duration and degree of improvement was variable. Back pain limited the daily activities (36.7%) and forced to bed rest (22.7%). It was also a significant reason for time off work (17%) and disability pension (6.5%). CONCLUSIONS: Back pain has a very high prevalence in the Catalonian population and is an important reason to seek medical attention. It greatly limits the daily personal and professional activities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-107
JournalGaceta sanitaria / S.E.S.P.A.S
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2003


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