Your Back

Risk Factors

Although anyone can have back pain, a number of factors can increase your risk. Some of these risk factors can’t be changed, or modified. Those factors include:

  • Age: Back pain becomes more common with age. In fact, it’s estimated that most people will experience lower back pain before the age of 50.
  • Heredity: Some causes of back pain, including disc disease, may have a genetic component.

You do have some control over other risk factors, and can minimize them by making responsible decisions. These risk factors include:

  • Fitness level: Back pain is more common in people who are not physically fit. Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine. Being active is critical, not just for your back, but for your whole body!
  • Diet: A diet high in calories and fat, combined with an inactive lifestyle, can lead to obesity, which can put stress on the back. A diet high in calcium, vitamin D, and healthy foods, combined with regular exercise, can help alleviate this risk factor.
  • Occupational risk factors: Some jobs can increase the risk of back pain, for example, those that require heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling, particularly when this involves twisting or vibrating the spine, like using a jackhammer. An inactive job or a desk job can also lead to or contribute to pain, especially if you have poor posture or sit all day in an uncomfortable chair.
  • Cigarette smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of developing low back pain in several ways. First, smoking may lead to pain by blocking the body's ability to deliver nutrients to the discs of the lower back. In addition, repeated coughing due to heavy smoking can cause back pain. Smoking can also slow healing, prolonging pain for people who have had back injuries, back surgery, or broken bones.