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Editor's Correspondence
July 27, 2009

Low Back Pain in VA Users

Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(14):1336-1340. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.201

In the February 9, 2009, issue of the Archives, Freburger and colleagues1 reported on the rising prevalence of chronic low back pain (LBP) in North Carolina. Using national data from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), we also found that the prevalence of LBP is increasing. We searched all inpatient and outpatient VA records for International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision diagnostic codes related to back pain (724, 7240x, 7241x, 7242x, 7243x, 7244x, 7245x, 7246x, 7247x, 8460x, and 8472x) and identified the unique patients with an LBP diagnosis in each year from fiscal years 2000 to 2007. Because the number of VA users increased notably over the period, we then standardized the count per 100 000 VA users. For comparison, we used previously published methods to assess the prevalence of 3 other common chronic conditions in VA users (depression, diabetes, or hypertension) to place the prevalence of LBP in context.2