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How chronic back problems affect more than just your spine

21 September 2016 - 2:43pm

A recent report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reveals that one in six Australians suffer from chronic back problems. While the drawbacks of frequent, consistent, chronic pain on any part of the body are obvious, the reality is that the negative effects of these issues stretch well beyond just pain: They can affect your ability to work, your mental health and your overall health as well.

Is it time that you invested in private health insurance that covers you in case of back injury?


Back pain affects everybody, from young to old.Back pain affects everybody, from young to old.

A widespread issue

It can no longer be an issue solely relegated to the insurers of older Australians.

Most people will, at some point in their lives, suffer from a pained back, but chronic back pain brings the issue to a new level. The AIHW defines it as a disc disorder, sciatica and curvature of the spine or any other back pain not caused by another condition such as osteoporosis or osteoarthritis that lasts six months or more. As such, it is a broad definition that encompasses a number of more specific issues.

Perhaps as a result of its broad definition, it is a problem that affected about 3.7 million Australians from 2014-15, according to the AIHW. It is equally likely to affect women as it is men, though women with back problems were more likely to be between 35-44 years old, while men were more likely to be between 45-54. Every age group was substantially affected by chronic back problems, with the exception of those between 0-14 years old.

While back problems may be portrayed as something that only older Australians suffer from, the reality is that almost 10 per cent of the 15-24 year old population had back problems between 2014-15, according to the AIHW. It can no longer be an issue solely relegated to the insurers of older Australians.

More than just pain

Chronic back problems were the third most significant burden of disease in 2011.

It is not merely discomfort and pain that are the primary concerns of chronic back pain either. Without the right cover to nip it in the bud, chronic back pain can have severe effects on a person's life in general as well.

For example, the AIHW reports that people with chronic back pain were more likely to be highly stressed, more likely to report a poorer quality of life, and in general have health outcomes that were lower than the average. An Australian Bureau of Statistics report from 2011 also reports that people who are unemployed were twice as likely to have back pain and/or problems, perhaps indicating it affected their ability to find work.

There are issues beyond the personal as well. The AIHW reports that chronic back problems were the third most burdensome issue in 2011, accounting for 3.6 per cent of the total burden across all diseases and injuries. It isn't just painful for the people it affects, but for the public and private health system that tries to rectify or mitigate it as well.

What you can do

So what can you do to help combat this prevalent issue? Whether you partake in a corporate health plan or have your own individual coverage, you can reduce the impact that chronic back pain has on your life and the public health system by ensuring your insurance covers  it.

From rehabilitation services to elective surgeries to simple health check-ups, your insurance can make sure you don't suffer from chronic back issues more than you have to. However, with such an enormous number of different insurance policies out there, it pays to make sure you compare them with the experts here at HICA. 

You can get in touch with us on 1300 44 22 01, or investigate your options online