The Cost of Back Pain

By Dr. Dan Van Roon • January 9th, 2011

Back pain can affect much more than just the back. The condition may exacerbate other health problems or cause complications such as depression. Therefore, the amount of money spent specifically on back-pain care does not necessarily reflect the total costs of treating back pain.

In a recent study, researchers from Duke University and the University of North Carolina used data from a national survey to calculate the total annual medical costs of Americans without back pain compared with those who had back pain.

Individuals with back pain had higher costs in all six Categories than did those with no back pain. (Back pain was considered any back disorder, disk disorder, or back injury.)
Combining costs from all six categories, people with back pain spent 60% more on medical care in 2009 than did those with no back pain ($3,498 vs.$2,178 per person). Extrapolating these data to the entire U.S. population, the researchers concluded that people with back pain spend about $91 billion annually on health care, only $26 billion of which is spent directly on treating back pain.

But the true cost is even higher. In fact, back pain may be the most expensive health problem in the United States because this figure does not take into account indirect costs of back pain, such as loss of productivity.

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