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Back Pain

What Are the Risk Factors for Back Pain?

Although anyone can have back pain, a number of factors increase your risk. They include:

Age: The first attack of low back pain typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 40. Back pain becomes more common with age.

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. "Weekend warriors" – people who go out and exercise a lot after being inactive all week – are more likely to suffer painful back injuries than people who make moderate physical activity a daily habit. Studies show that low-impact aerobic exercise is good for the disks that cushion the vertebrae, the individual bones that make up the spine.

Diet: A diet high in calories and fat, combined with an inactive lifestyle, can lead to obesity, which can put stress on the back.

Heredity: Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that affects the spine, have a genetic component.

Race: Race can be a factor in back problems. African American women, for example, are two to three times more likely than white women to develop spondylolisthesis, a condition in which a vertebra of the lower spine – also called the lumbar – slips out of place.

The presence of other disease: Many diseases can cause or contribute to back pain. These include various forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and cancers elsewhere in the body that may spread to the spine.

Occupational risk factors: Having a job that requires heavy lifting, pushing or pulling, particularly when this involves twisting or vibrating the spine, can lead to 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.

Cigarette smoking: Although smoking may not directly cause back pain, it increases your risk of developing low back pain and low back pain with sciatica (Sciatica is back pain that radiates to the hip and/or leg due to pressure on a nerve). For example, smoking may lead to pain by blocking your body’s ability to deliver nutrients to the disks of the lower back. Or repeated coughing due to heaving smoking may cause back pain. It is also possible that smokers are just less physically fit or less healthy than nonsmokers, which increases the likelihood that they will develop back pain. Smoking also increases the risk of osteoporosis, a condition that causes weak, porous bones, which can lead to painful fractures of the vertebrae. Furthermore, smoking can slow healing, prolonging pain for people who have had back injuries, back surgery, or broken bones.

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