Adolescent low back pain (ALBP) is a common form of adolescent morbidity which remains poorly understood. When attempting a meta-analysis of observational studies into ALBP, in an effort to better understand associated risk factors, it is important that the studies involved are homogenic, particularly in terms of the dependent and independent variables. Our preliminary reading highlighted the potential for lack of homogeneity in descriptors used for ALBP. This review identified 39 studies of ALBP prevalence which fulfilled the inclusion criteria, ie, English language, involving adolescents (aged 10 to 19 years), pain localized to lumbar region, and not involving specific subgroups such as athletes and dancers. Descriptions for ALBP used in the literature were categorized into three categories: general ALBP, chronic/recurrent ALBP, and severe/disabling ALBP. Whilst the comparison of period prevalence rates for each category suggest that the three represent different forms of ALBP, it remains unclear whether they represented different stages on a continuum, or represent separate entities. The optimal period prevalence for ALBP recollection depends on the category of ALBP. For general ALBP the optimal period prevalence appears to be up to 12 months, with average lifetime prevalence rates similar to 1-year prevalence rates, suggesting an influence of memory decay on pain recall.