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Factors that can make you prone to back pain

Back pain is such a common problem that it can affect any of us.  Having said this, there are a number of risk factors that can make us more prone to develop back pain.  These include age, our genetic makeup, factors related to our occupation and lifestyle, our weight and posture, and pregnancy and smoking. With that said, back pain is so prevalent that it can be a problem even if you have no risk factors at all.

Specific Risk Factors for Back Pain

Patients with one or more of the following factors may be at risk for back pain:

Age. Over time, wear and tear on the spine increases and this may result in conditions such as disc degeneration and spinal stenosis that produce back or neck pain. This means that people over age 30 or 40 have a greater risk of back pain than younger individuals. People aged 30 to 60 are more likely to have disc-related disorders, while people over age 60 are more likely to have pain related to wear and tear in the back (osteoarthritis).

Genetics. There is some evidence that certain types of spinal disorders have a genetic component. For example, degenerative disc disease seems to have an inherited component,  and the shape of the spinal canal may be genetically determined and have a greater or lesser risk of stenosis.

Occupational hazards. Occupatieonts requiring repetitive bending and lifting have an increased incidence of back injury (e.g., construction worker, nurse).  Jobs that require long hours of standing without a break or sitting in a chair also puts the person at greater risk.  The spine (and the muscles around it) was not designed for sitting in front of a computer or behind the wheel of a car for long periods.  It is very important, the more sedentary someone's occupation, to pursue exercise and activity when not working.

Sedentary lifestyle. Lack of regular exercise allows less fitness of the supporting muscles around the spine and increases risks of occurrence of lower back pain, and increases the likely severity of the pain.

Excess weight. Being overweight increases stress on the lower back, as well as other joints (e.g. knees) and is a risk factor for certain types of back pain symptoms.

Poor posture. Any type of prolonged poor posture will, over time, substantially increase the risk of developing back pain. Examples include slouching over a computer keyboard, driving hunched over the steering wheel, lifting improperly.

Pregnancy. Pregnant women are more likely to develop back pain due carrying excess body weight in the front, and the loosening of ligaments in the pelvic area as the body prepares for delivery. 

Smoking. People who smoke are more likely to develop back pain than those who don’t smoke. 


Exercise and fitness are major things that you can do to prevent back pain.  This is discussed in more detail here.






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Pain Service Website, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Webmaster Dr J G de Courcy, Consultant in Pain Medicine and Anaesthesia
email: pain.webmaster[at]

Page updated 15/02/2016