Back Pain Health Center

What are the risk factors for back pain?

Anyone can have back pain. However, there are a number of factors that can increase your risk. These factors include age, fitness level, diet, genetics, race, cigarette smoking, the presence of other diseases and occupational risk factors.

Typically, low back pain first attacks between the ages of 30 and 40 and becomes more common with age. Back pain is also more common among people who are not physically fit. The spine may not have proper support in people with weak back and abdominal muscles.

A diet high in calories and fat potentially can lead to obesity, which can add stress to the back.

Some conditions that cause back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis, are caused by genetics and are therefore hereditary.

Race may be a factor in back problems. For example, African American women are two to three times more likely than white women to develop spondylolisthesis, a condition in which a vertebra of the lower spine slips out of place.

Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer may cause or contribute to back pain.

Having a job that carries risk factors such as heavy lifting, pushing and pulling can increase the risks for developing back pain. Smoking increases back pain risk as well.

What can I do to help my acute back pain?

Acute back pain is back pain that lasts less than six weeks. Injury or accidents, like getting tackled on the football field or falling from a ladder, are common causes of acute back pain.

If you develop back pain after a serious injury, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible so that he or she can evaluate the damage and provide prompt treatment. However, if it is mild, try an aspirin or ibuprofen. Although you may be tempted, don't try and immobilize yourself until the pain ceases. Staying active will keep up blood flow and not allow you to grow stiff. A hot or cold pack can be used to treat sore and stiff backs and can be found at the pharmacy or drug store. Do not exercise vigorously with acute back pain as you may cause further damage to your back. Ask your doctor what is safe.

Review Date: 
August 6, 2012
Last Updated:
December 13, 2013