Background. Although clinical guidelines generally portray chronic low back pain as a condition with a poor prognosis this portrayal is based on studies of potentially unrepresentative survival cohorts. The aim of this study is to describe the prognosis of an inception cohort of people with chronic low back pain presenting for primary care. Methods/Design. The study will be an inception cohort study with one year follow-up. Participants are drawn from a cohort of consecutive patients presenting with acute low back pain (less than 2 weeks duration) to primary care clinics in Sydney, Australia. Those patients who continue to experience pain at three months, and are therefore classified as having chronic back pain, are invited to participate in the current study. The cohort will be followed up by telephone at baseline, 9 months and 12 months after being diagnosed with chronic low back pain. Recovery from low back pain will be measured by sampling three different outcomes: pain intensity, interference with function due to pain, and work status. Life tables will be generated to determine the one year prognosis of chronic low back pain. Prognostic factors will be assessed using Cox regression. Discussion. This study will determine the prognosis of chronic non-specific low back pain in a representative cohort of patients sourced from primary care. The results of this study will improve understanding of chronic low back pain, allowing clinicians to provide more accurate prognostic information to their patients.