To perform a systematic review of the global prevalence of low back pain, and to examine the influence that case definition, prevalence period, and other variables have on prevalence. We conducted a new systematic review of the global prevalence of low back pain that included general population studies published between 1980 and 2009. A total of 165 studies from 54 countries were identified. Of these, 64% had been published since the last comparable review. Low back pain was shown to be a major problem throughout the world, with the highest prevalence among female individuals and those aged 40-80 years. After adjusting for methodologic variation, the mean ± SEM point prevalence was estimated to be 11.9 ± 2.0%, and the 1-month prevalence was estimated to be 23.2 ± 2.9%. As the population ages, the global number of individuals with low back pain is likely to increase substantially over the coming decades. Investigators are encouraged to adopt recent recommendations for a standard definition of low back pain and to consult a recently developed tool for assessing the risk of bias of prevalence studies. Copyright © 2012 by the American College of Rheumatology.