These Factors May Raise Your Back Pain Risk

Lower back pain risk tied to obesity, depression, and nicotine and alcohol use

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Lower back pain can be irritating at best and debilitating at worse. For some, simple lifestyle changes may make a huge difference.

A recent study found that nicotine dependence, alcohol abuse, obesity and depression were tied to an increased risk of lower back pain.

The authors of this study looked at the connection between these health issues and back pain using medical records. They suggested that addressing these risk factors may help alleviate back pain.

“The findings will allow physicians to better counsel and more closely follow their high-risk patients,” said lead author Scott T. Shemory, MD, of the Crystal Clinic Orthopedic Center in Akron, OH, in a press release.

Between 19 and 39 percent of people develop lower back pain during their lifetimes, Dr. Shemory and team noted. This pain may increase medical costs, prevent people from working and lower quality of life.

"The best way to prevent the development of chronic back pain in many individuals is to listen to their acute back pain," said Joseph Rempson, MD, director of the Center for Concussion Care and Physical Rehabilitation at Overlook Medical Center in Overlook, NJ, in an interview with dailyRx News. "Whether it be a construction worker after repetitive lifting, mother consistently lifting an infant, a housekeeper cleaning the floors and constantly bending, or a nurse lifting patients, poor mechanics of lifting can lead to chronic low back pain. Many individuals have a tendency to ignore their pain or attempt to mask it with medications such as Tylenol or Advil."

Dr. Rempson continued, "The best way to avoid this problem is to learn the appropriate mechanics of spine care. Whether it be how to lift an object, minimize flexion while mopping a floor, or appropriately strengthening the muscles of the spine, appropriately managing the acute pain will help avoid chronic back problems."

For this study, Dr. Shemory and team looked at data from 26 million patients’ medical records — 1.2 million of whom had a diagnosis of lower back pain.

People with nicotine dependence were more than four times as likely as nonsmokers to develop lower back pain. Alcohol abusers were 3.3 times as likely as those who did not abuse alcohol to have lower back pain.

Also, obesity was tied to a six-fold increased risk of lower back pain.

Patients with depressive disorders were 5.5 times more likely to have lower back pain than their nondepressed counterparts, Dr. Shemory and team found.

“Physicians should counsel their patients of the risk of [low back pain] in order to diminish the disability and cost associated with progression to chronic symptoms,” Dr. Shemory and team wrote.

Dr. Rempson said staying active can also help prevent back problems.

"This should include full body exercise including core strengthening," Dr. Rempson said. "This may include exercises such as a pool exercise program, working out in a gym with formal equipment, taking exercise classes, or developing a workout program you can do in your own home. It is important to do all exercises correctly to prevent injury. Appropriately strengthening the back muscles helps reduce the risk of injury."

This study was presented March 25 at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Dr. Shemory and team disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 25, 2015
Last Updated:
March 31, 2015