Canada’s Low Back Pain Epidemic

High Rates of Low Back Pain in Canada 

Do you experience, or have you experienced back pain in the past? You’re not alone. Back pain, specifically low back pain, is common. Approximately 80% of adults will deal with low back pain at least once in their lifetime. It can impact almost every aspect of your daily living. From your workday to your workouts, low back pain can get in the way. Tasks as simple as bending over to put on your socks, or sitting in a meeting can become huge challenges when you have back pain. In Canada, low back pain has a significant impact on work-related disability as well as health care costs. 


Low back pain presents itself in many ways. It can range in intensity, in pain patterns and in frequency. One person may experience a constant dull ache while the next may feel a sharp and sudden sensation. Low back pain can be local. It can also refer or radiate into the buttocks, pelvis and legs. Low back pain can begin suddenly as a result of an accident or injury. It can also develop and build over time due to repetitive strain, chronic poor posture and age-related changes in the spine.  The causes of low back pain are multifactorial. There are often physical, social and psychological factors that contribute to the pain we feel. 


Low Back Pain Epidemic in Canada

Back pain affects millions of Canadians. Men and women are equally affected. It is one of the most common job-related disabilities and a leading contributor to missed workdays.


Statistics in Canada tell us that:

  • In a six-month period, 5 in 10 Canadians suffered low back pain
  • Up to 85% of working people can expect to experience low back pain during their lifetime
  • In Canada, the low back pain-related estimate of medical costs ranges between 6 and 12 billion dollars a year.


So why are these numbers so high? Research shows that two of the main reasons for this low back pain epidemic in Canada are higher Body Mass Indexes (BMI) in our population and our sedentary lifestyles. Two factors that we can control. A higher BMI increases the risk of developing and suffering from low back pain. Overweight and obesity rates are increasing in Canada, and therefore our risk of developing low back pain is growing. 


As a population in general, we don’t move enough. We sit in the car or on the bus to get to work, we sit at a desk, we sit in class. Add those hours in a day, and then a week, month and year! That’s a lot of sitting. Prolonged sitting puts us at risk of developing low back pain. It negatively impacts our muscles and joints. They become deconditioned (out of shape), and their physical and biomechanical function declines. Sitting also puts significant stress on the intervertebral discs in our spine. 


More and more we are seeing workplaces combat the sitting problem with stand-up desks. It’s a great idea and a great initiative. However the reality is that standing for seven hours per day isn’t any better than sitting for the same length of time. What we need and what our bodies need is movement. So if you have a sit/stand desk, make the most of it by transitioning from one position to the other throughout the day. Most importantly, take moments to move. Take the stairs, go for a walk at lunch, park farther away from school or the office and walk-in. 


Finally, low back pain has been one the key driver for opioid prescriptions. The Canadian Chiropractic Association states that with increasing awareness of its risks, limited efficacy and potential for misuse, emerging evidence has suggested that medication should not be the mainstay in the treatment of low back pain. Instead, recent guidelines recommend self-management, manual therapy, physical activity and psychological therapies.


What Can You Do?

So what can you do to manage low back pain and prevent future episodes? 

  1. Visit your MSK Health Care Team: At Curavita Health Group, we offer a comprehensive and collaborative approach to your MSK health needs. Our chiropractors, physiotherapist and massage therapists work together to provide care, education and tools to help you manage and prevent back pain.
  2. Get Moving and Keep Moving: Regular movement and exercise are key to managing and preventing back pain. Combat a sedentary lifestyle by making exercise part of your daily routine. Physical activity and healthy nutrition are the primary components to maintaining a healthy weight and therefore preventing future episodes of back pain.
  3. Shift Your Focus: Stress can have a significant impact on how our brains process pain. Meditation, mindfulness, breathing exercises and body awareness tools can help your brain change the way you experience pain.

Spinal health is an important factor in preventing back pain, as well as maintaining overall health and well-being.  Call the CURAVITA Health Group today to book a comprehensive assessment. Our model of patient-centred care in a collaborative multi-disciplinary environment will ensure your MSK health needs will be met.