Your Risk for Back Pain

Armen Hareyan's picture

A variety of factors can raise your risk for back pain, including repetitive lifting, smoking or drinking in excess, a lack of calcium in the diet, osteoarthritis, and depression. Back pain can also be an occupational hazard: Four percent of all nursing assistants and more than one in 10 garbage collectors have at least one bout of back pain per year.

According to Hey, however, the vast majority of back injuries are caused by a simple lack of what he refers to as "good body biomechanics." Most people move through their lives in ways that invite or exacerbate pain. They exercise little, slouch when they walk, and slump over in their seats. Then they lift too-heavy loads in postures that leave the back unsupported. In fact, people usually aren't aware of the many ways that they strain their back until their back lets them know it (see below for back injury prevention tips and pointers for back-friendly lifting).

Mark, the dad who twisted down and hoisted his toddler aloft while juggling a bag of groceries, was a classic case of a back accident waiting to happen: he was overweight and out of shape-wanting to exercise, but between work and family commitments, never finding the time. "The large majority of common back problems would never happen if people at risk would lose weight and learn to reach for things safely," Hey says.


Most episodes of acute back pain respond well to conservative treatment, which may involve physical therapy, a course of anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen, weight loss, lumbar support (a corset or brace), and low-impact aerobics. Though some back pain sufferers have found relief with acupuncture, an ancient medical procedure involving the insertion of extremely thin needles at various depths at strategic points on your body, scientific data on the technique's effectiveness in easing chronic back pain is mixed.


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