by Alan Jordan
Lower back pain is extraordinarily common and approximately 80% of the population will experience an episode of pain during the course of their lives. Most episodes resolve on their own, but lower back pain is not nearly as self-limiting as previously thought. Newer research has demonstrated that upwards of 10% of the population are suffering with chronic lower back pain – at enormous costs to society and the individual.
In previous articles I have addressed the causes of lower back pain as well as situations in which it is literally impossible to identify the precise tissue that is causing the pain. In this article I will address the subject of risk factors, in other words, who is at risk of developing lower back pain.
An interesting way to present this information is risk factors that you cannot do anything to address and those that you can.
Risk factors that you can’t change
- Being middle-aged or older.
- Being male.
- Having a family history of back pain.
- Having had a back injury before.
- Being pregnant. A woman’s back is significantly stressed by carrying a baby.
- Having had back surgery before.
- Having spine problems since birth.
Risk factors you can change with lifestyle changes
- Not getting regular exercise.
- Doing a job or other activity that requires long periods of sitting, heavy lifting, bending or twisting, repetitive motions, or constant vibration, such as using a jackhammer or driving certain types of heavy equipment.
- Smoking. People who smoke are more likely than people who don’t smoke to have low low back pain.
- Being overweight. Excess body weight, especially around the waist, may put strain on your back, although this has not been proven. But being overweight often also means being in poor physical condition, with weaker muscles and less flexibility. These can lead to low back pain.
- Having poor posture. Slumping or slouching on its own may not cause low back pain. But after the back has been strained or injured, bad posture can make pain worse.
- Being under stress. Stress and other emotional factors are believed to play a major role in low back pain, particularly chronic low back pain. Many people unconsciously tighten their back muscles when they are under stress.
There are certain risk factors, for example age, that we cannot do anything about, while there are others such as smoking or exercise, that we can most certainly address. Although not a “disease” as such taking care to ensure that your spine is well protected and properly functioning makes good sense – if you don’t believe me ask someone who is experiencing chronic lower back pain.