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Risk Factors for Low Back Pain and Sciatica

En Español (Spanish Version)

Main Page | Risk Factors | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment | Screening | Reducing Your Risk | Talking to Your Doctor | Living With Low Back Pain and Sciatica | Living With Low Back Pain and Sciatica | Resource Guide

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop low back pain or sciatica with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing low back pain or sciatica. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors include:

Overuse of the back muscles during any activity.

Scoliosis

Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine that can cause low back pain, especially in adults.

Sedentary Job or Lifestyle

Muscles that support the back can become weak with lack of exercise.

Occupation

Work that requires the following motions puts additional stress on the back:

  • Heavy lifting
  • Bending or twisting
  • Exposure to vibrations, such as riding in a car or operating heavy machinery

Participating in Strenuous or Contact Sports

  • Injuries from contact sports or falls can result in back pain.
  • High-impact sports, for example, distance running

Cigarette Smoking

Smoking may cause discs in the spine to wear down.

Obesity

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your overall health. Extra weight can increase pressure on the spinal muscles and disks.

Improper Lifting Techniques

When you lift objects with your back muscles instead of the stronger muscles in your legs, you increase your risk of back injury.

Age

As you grow older, the disks in your back begin to lose water content and degenerate. This increases the risk of disk problems and back pain, especially after age 40. However, even with some disk degeneration, most people do not have back pain.

Psychosocial factors

Stress, anxiety, and negative mood may increase your risk of low back pain

 

References:

  • Acute low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 26, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.
  • Bogduk N. Degenerative joint disease of the spine. Radiol Clin North Am. 2012;15(4):613-28.
  • Chronic low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 6, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.
  • Freedman MK, Saulino MF, et al. Interventions in chronic pain management. 5. Approaches to medication and lifestyle in chronic pain syndromes. Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 89(3 Suppl 1):S56-60, 2008 Mar.
  • Leboeuf-Yde C. Body weight and low back pain. A systematic literature review of 56 journal articles reporting on 65 epidemiologic studies. Spine. 25(2):226-37, 2000 Jan 15.
  • Pain. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/chronic_pain/detail_chronic_pain.htm#Spine. Updated August 30, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.
  • Sciatica. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 4, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.

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