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Factors That Increase the Risk of Back Pain and Injury

Topic Overview

The following factors may increase your risk for back pain.

Factors you cannot control

  • Growing older
  • Being a man
  • Being pregnant. A woman's back is significantly stressed by carrying a baby.
  • Having a family history of back pain
  • Having a problem with your spine that has been present since birth (congenital)
  • Having a degenerative disease of the spine, such as osteoporosis or arthritis

Factors you can control

  • Not exercising regularly
  • Sitting for long periods, lifting or pulling heavy objects, bending or twisting frequently, heavy physical exertion, repetitive motions, and exposure to constant vibration, such as from driving
  • Smoking. A smoker is twice as likely to have low back pain than a nonsmoker.
  • Being overweight (weighing more than 20% over your ideal body weight)
  • Being under a lot of stress
  • Having a mental health problem, such as depression or severe anxiety
  • Having an illness or disease that causes chronic coughing

Slumping or slouching alone may not cause low back pain. But after the back has been strained or injured, bad posture can make pain worse. "Good posture" generally means your ears, shoulders, and hips are in a straight line. If this posture causes pain, you may have another condition such as a problem with a disc or bones in your back.

Activities that increase your risk

  • Running or jogging
  • Skiing and snowboarding
  • Sledding, snowmobiling, or tobogganing
  • Sports that require forceful twisting, such as gymnastics and wrestling
  • Contact sports, such as football or rugby
  • Work-related activities that require repeated lifting, bending, or twisting of the back

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Last Revised May 23, 2013

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