The concept of inflammatory back pain (IBP) evolved in the 1970s, coincident with the discovery of the HLA-B27 association with ankylosing spondylitis (AS), leading to the development of criteria to determine the presence of IBP. The concept of IBP and it relationship with AS and axial spondyloarthritis (AxSpA) has further evolved, and an instrument developed (the Spondylitis Association of America Back Pain Tool), which was further modified and field tested for use in the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). This has shown the frequency of chronic back pain to have risen to 19.4%, with nearly one-third having IBP. The prevalence of AxSpA has been defined at 1.0-1.4% and AS at 0.52-0.55%. The national prevalence of HLA-B27 in the U.S. is 6.1%, and intriguing data from NHANES 2009 suggest a decreasing frequency with increasing age. From this arise new questions and a work agenda ahead.