Back pain is common. It is estimated that 60-80% of the population have back pain at some time during their life with between 14-30% having some pain on the day of interview and 30-40% of people reporting some pain within the previous month.

Approximately 5-10% will have some degree of back trouble for long periods of their life, while 3-4% of the population aged 16-44 and 5-7% of those between 45 and 64 will report back problems as a chronic sickness [1].

Consequently, not only do emergency departments (EDs) see many patients presenting with acute back pain but they also see many with acute exacerbations of a chronic back problem and patients with back pain incidental to their presenting problem. It tends to start between the late teens and the late forties or early fifties.

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