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.
Overuse of the back muscles can happen during any activity.
Risk factors include:
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.
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, such as distance running
Smoking may cause discs in the spine to wear down.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important for your overall health. Extra weight can increase pressure on the spinal muscles and discs.
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.
As you grow older, the discs in your back begin to lose water content and degenerate. This increases the risk of disc problems and back pain, especially after age 40. However, even with some disc degeneration, most people do not have back pain.
Stress, anxiety, and negative mood may increase your risk of low back pain.
Acute low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114958/Acute-low-back-pain. Updated October 25, 2017. Accessed December 27, 2017.
Chronic low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116935/Chronic-low-back-pain. Updated June 30, 2017. Accessed December 27, 2017.
Dario AB, Ferreira ML, Refshauge KM, et al. The relationship between obesity, low back pain, and lumbar disc degeneration when genetics and the environment are considered: a systematic review of twin studies. The Spine J. 2015;15(5):1106-1117.
Sciatica. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115166/Sciatica. Updated May 8, 2017. Accessed December 27, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP Last Updated: 12/27/2017