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Back to basics: 10 facts every person should know about back pain
  1. Peter B O'Sullivan1,2,
  2. JP Caneiro1,2,
  3. Kieran O'Sullivan3,4,
  4. Ivan Lin5,
  5. Samantha Bunzli6,
  6. Kevin Wernli1,2,
  7. Mary O'Keeffe7
  1. 1 School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
  2. 2 Body Logic Physiotherapy, Shenton Park, Western Australia, Australia
  3. 3 School of Allied Health, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
  4. 4 Ageing research centre health research institute, Health Research Institute, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
  5. 5 WA Centre for Rural Health, University of Western Australia, Geraldton, Western Australia, Australia
  6. 6 Department of Surgery, St Vincent’s Hospital, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  7. 7 School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine and Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Professor Peter B O'Sullivan, School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, Perth, WA 6102, Australia; p.osullivan{at}

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Low back pain (LBP) is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is often associated with costly, ineffective and sometimes harmful care.1 What drives disability and poor care?2 Unhelpful beliefs about LBP are associated with greater levels of pain, disability, work absenteeism, medication use and healthcare seeking.3 Unhelpful beliefs are common in people with and without LBP, and can be reinforced by the media, industry groups and well-meaning clinicians.

In this editorial and infographic, we identify 10 common unhelpful beliefs about LBP and outline how they may influence behavioural and psychological responses to pain. We counter with 10 important facts about LBP, calling on clinicians to incorporate these into their interactions with patients. The infographic is designed for the public use (figure 1).

Figure 1

What every person should know about low back pain.

Ten unhelpful LBP beliefs

Unhelpful LBP beliefs are common, culturally endorsed and not supported by evidence.2 4 5

  • Myth 1: LBP is usually a serious medical condition.

  • Myth 2: LBP will become persistent and deteriorate in later life.

  • Myth 3: Persistent LBP is always related to tissue damage.

  • Myth 4: Scans are …

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  • Twitter @kieranosull, @KWernliPhysio, @MaryOKeeffe007

  • Contributors All authors were involved in developing the concept. POS drafted the manuscript. All authors contributed to and approved the final version submitted.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests POS, JPC, KOS are members of the editorial board of BJSM. Three authors (POS, JPC, KOS) deliver educational workshops on patient-centred care.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.