Top 8 Risk Factors for Back Pain

Back pain is an all-too-familiar problem. From a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain that leaves you incapacitated, back pain can come on suddenly and linger endlessly. It can occur from an accident, a fall, or by lifting something heavy. It can also develop slowly, a result of age-related changes to the spine. Regardless of how back pain begins, you know it when you have it.

Although anyone can have back pain, a number of factors increase your risk. Below are the top 8 risk factors for back pain:

Age – The first attack of low back pain typically occurs between ages 30 and 40. The older you get, the more likely you’ll begin to notice some discomfort.

Fitness Level – Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit. Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine. In addition, consistent activity is critical. People who exercise heavily after being inactive all week are more likely to suffer painful back injuries than those who make moderate daily activity a habit.

Weight – When you carry extra weight, you’re putting added stress on the back.

Occupational Risk Factors – Some jobs just aren’t great for the back. If you have a job that requires heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling – particularly when it involves twisting or vibrating the spine – you run the risk of injury and back pain. An inactive job or a desk job may also lead to or contribute to pain, especially if you have poor posture or sit all day in an uncomfortable chair.

Heredity – It’s hard to escape hereditary issues. Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis, which is a form of arthritis that affects the spine – are tied in to genetics.

Race – Like heredity, race can factor in to your likelihood of developing back problems. African-American women, for example, are twice as likely as white women to develop spondylolisthesis, a condition in which a vertebra of the lower spine—also called the lumbar spine—slips out of place.

Other Diseases – Many diseases can cause or contribute to back pain, including various forms of arthritis such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Cancer can also affect the spine if it spreads from other parts of the body.

Cigarettes – Smoking may not directly cause back pain, but it increases your risk of developing low back pain and low back pain with sciatica (back pain that radiates to the hip and/or leg due to pressure on a nerve). Smoking also slows healing and prolongs pain for people who have had back injuries, back surgery, or broken bones.