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Fast Facts – Are You at Increased Risk for Back Pain?

Back pain is an all-too-familiar problem for many. In fact, 80 % of us will experience a back problem during our lives.

Although it may not be possible to completely avoid back pain, it helps to know what may increase the chance that you’ll experience it.

Factors that can put you at a higher risk for back pain:

  • Age: Getting older significantly increases your chances of having back pain. Why? As people age, bone strength and muscle elasticity and tone tend to decrease.
  • Fitness Level: Physically active people are less likely to have back problems. Regular exercise, such as walking, biking or swimming, helps to prevent strains, sprains, and other injuries. Exercise that focuses on balance and strength, such as yoga or tai chi, can lower your risk of falling and injuring your back. Abdominal muscles (around the stomach) actually provide a lot of support for your back, so it is important to strengthen them too.
  • Diet/Weight: A high calorie diet can lead to obesity and too much weight can stress many parts of the body, including the back. Being overweight often means being in poor physical condition, with weaker muscles and less flexibility. Even for those who maintain a healthy weight, diet is important and should include calcium and vitamin D, which help maintain strong bones.
  • Heredity: There is evidence that certain types of spinal disorders have a genetic component. For example, degenerative disc disease and ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that affects the spine, are thought to be hereditary.

A study evaluating pain and sleep found that almost 60% of people with lower back pain report having disturbed sleep.

  • Other diseases: Many diseases can cause or contribute to back pain. Various forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer may affect the spine.
  • Occupation: Having a job that requires heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling, particularly when this involves twisting or vibrating the spine, can be hazardous to your back (Examples: construction workers, heavy equipment operators or nurses). A job that requires long hours of standing without a break or a desk job may also lead to or contribute to pain, especially if you have poor posture or sit all day in an uncomfortable chair (Examples: barbers or software developers).
  • Race: Race can be a factor in back problems. African American women, for example, are two to three times more likely than white women to develop spondylolisthesis, a condition in which part of the lower spine slips out of place.
  • Stress: Stress is believed to play a role in back pain. Many people unconsciously tighten their back muscles when they are under stress.
  • Smoking: People who smoke have a higher risk of back pain. Researchers have a few possible explanations. One is that nicotine slows the flow of blood to the vertebrae and discs, affecting how they work. Also, smokers tend to lose bone faster than nonsmokers and this puts that at greater risk for osteoporosis, a common cause of back pain. In addition, smoking can slow healing, prolonging pain for people who have had back injuries.

Resolutions for the New Year

Some of the risks for back pain are beyond your control, but some are not. Why not make it your resolution for the New Year to live a healthier life–exercise regularly, maintain an optimal weight and be careful when lifting heavy objects (knees bent, back straight).

Best wishes for less pain or even a pain-free life in 2014!

We hope you’ve been enlightened with our Back Pain Fast Facts. If you’re experiencing acute or chronic back pain and need a pain management doctor to accurately diagnose and effectively treat your pain, we invite you to reach out to us below to get started…we’d love to hear from you and have one of our board-certified specialists help you.

National Spine & Pain Centers has over 40 convenient office locations for you to choose from and is a leading provider of non-surgical pain management treatments.

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