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Risk Factors


Lt Col Jerman
Although anyone can have back pain, a number of factors can increase the risk for it. Some of these risk factors are beyond our control, but others we can work to minimize. Captain Laydon, can you tell us about some of the risk factors for low back pain?

Capt Laydon
Absolutely, Dr. Jerman. Some risk factors that can’t be changed include:

  • Age: back pain becomes more common as we grow older.
  • Heredity: some causes of back pain, including disc disease, may be genetically inherited. However, staying physically active and doing exercises that target the muscles in the back, stomach, and legs, can diminish the affect of this risk factor. (and)
  • Prior low back pain: more than any other factor, a history of low back pain predisposes a person to future episodes of low back pain.

Other risk factors that can be minimized include:

  • Fitness level: weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine and may cause misalignment.
  • Diet: a diet high in calories and fat, combined with inactivity, can lead to obesity, which can put too much stress on the back.
  • Occupation: some jobs that require heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, or twisting can increase the risk of low back pain, but so can a desk job if you have poor posture or sit in a poorly designed chair. (and)
  • Smoking: smoking cigarettes can increase the risk of back pain by blocking nutrients from reaching the intervertebral discs, by causing repeated coughing, and by reducing the body’s ability to heal.