Do you have any risk factors for developing low back pain? If you do, you may be able to prevent low back pain by taking specific actions. While none of us can control our age or genetics – two risk factors for low back pain – we can make choices to lose weight, exercise and avoid strains at work and at school.
Consider these eight risk factors for low back pain:
Age: The first time a person has low back pain typically happens after 30 and before 50. That’s partly because as we get older, loss of bone strength from osteoporosis can lead to fractures. Muscle tone also decreases. Our intervertebral discs begin to lose fluid and flexibility with age, which decreases their ability to cushion the vertebrae. The risk of spinal stenosis also increases with age.
Fitness level: If you’re not physically fit, you are more likely to have back pain. Strong back and abdominal muscles help support the spine. Look out weekend warriors, research shows you’re more likely to suffer painful back injuries than people who make moderate physical activity a daily habit. Studies also show that low-impact aerobic exercise helps keep your intervertebral discs healthy.
Pregnancy is commonly accompanied by low back pain, which results from pelvic changes and alterations in weight loading. Back symptoms almost always resolve postpartum.
Weight gain: Being overweight, obese, or quickly gaining significant amounts of weight can put stress on the back and lead to low back pain. If you want to lose weight, talk to your health provider for how to change your diet and incorporate exercise into your life.
Genetics: Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that involves fusion of the spinal joints leading to some immobility of the spine, have a genetic component. We can’t change our genetics, but we can try to avoid other risk factors such as being overweight or inactive.
Occupational risk factors: You probably know that having a job that requires heavy lifting or twisting the spine can lead to injury and back pain. However, working a desk job can also lead to or contribute to pain. Be mindful of your posture at work. Try not to sit all day long or in a chair with inadequate back support.
Mental health factors: Pre-existing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can influence how much you focus on your pain and how you perceive its severity. Chronic pain can also contribute to anxiety and depression. Stress plays a role because it causes muscles tension.
Backpack overload in children: Watch those backpacks. Most pre-teens don’t have low back unless it’s related to an injury. However, an overloaded backpack can strain the back and cause muscle fatigue. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that a child’s backpack should weigh no more than 15 to 20 percent of the child’s body weight.
Source: National Institute of Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
+ Learn about The Spine Center of Hampton Roads which helps patients of all ages with back and neck pain. Our specialists use X-ray, MRI, CT, bone scan and other advanced diagnostic tools to evaluate each patient’s individual needs. Physical therapy is available at Bon Secours In Motion Physical Therapy locations throughout Hampton Roads.