Back Pain Risk Factors: What Can Increase The Potential for Back Problems?

Back Pain Risk Factors: What Can Increase The Potential for Back Problems?

There are many risk factors for back pain, including aging, genetics, occupational hazards, lifestyle, weight, posture, pregnancy and smoking. With that said, back pain is so prevalent that it can strike even if you have no risk factors at all.

Specific Risk Factors for Back Pain

Patients with one or more of the following factors may be at risk for back pain:

Aging. Over time, wear and tear on the spine that may result in conditions (e.g., disc degeneration, spinal stenosis) that produce neck and back pain. This means that people over age 30 or 40 are more at risk for back pain than younger individuals. People age 30 to 60 are more likely to have disc-related disorders, while people over age 60 are more likely to have pain related to osteoarthritis.

Genetics. There is some evidence that certain types of spinal disorders have a genetic component. For example, degenerative disc disease seems to have an inherited component.

Occupational hazards. Any job that requires repetitive bending and lifting has a high incidence of back injury (e.g., construction worker, nurse). Jobs that require long hours of standing without a break (e.g., barber) or sitting in a chair (e.g., software developer) that does not support the back well also puts the person at greater risk.

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Sedentary lifestyle. Lack of regular exercise increases risks for occurrence of lower back pain, and increases the likely severity of the pain.

Excess weight. Being overweight increases stress on the lower back, as well as other joints (e.g. knees) and is a risk factor for certain types of back pain symptoms.

Poor posture. Any type of prolonged poor posture will, over time, substantially increase the risk of developing back pain. Examples include slouching over a computer keyboard, driving hunched over the steering wheel, lifting improperly.

Pregnancy. Pregnant women are more likely to develop back pain due carrying excess body weight in the front, and the loosening of ligaments in the pelvic area as the body prepares for delivery. Learn more about Back Pain in Pregnancy.

Smoking. People who smoke are more likely to develop back pain than those who don’t smoke. Understand the relationship between smoking and back pain.

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Stephen Hochschuler
Article written by: Stephen H. Hochschuler, MD