Study Finds — Key Modifiable Triggers That Cause Lower Back Pain
A recent study has identified a number of risk factors that contribute to lower back pain. Although not everyone suffers from chronic pain, it’s estimated that 3 million Australians have back problems and 70 to 90 percent of the population will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives.
Based on the findings published in Arthritis Care & Research, it’s clear that lower back pain can be modified based on certain triggers — both physical and psychosocial. Here’s what the study found, as well as what these results means for those who suffer from back pain.
Study — What Triggers an Episode of Acute Lower Back Pain?
Researchers recruited 999 patients who were experiencing new episodes of acute lower back pain. Of the possible triggers which patients reported on, those studied were — heavy loads, awkward positioning, unstable loading and handling of people/animals, holding objects far from the body, slipping or falling, moderate physical activity, sexual activity, fatigue, alcohol, and being distracted.
Since lifestyle factors and genetics could be confounding variables, each participant acted as their own control through a case-crossover design. Surprisingly, the greatest risk of acute lower back pain was when individuals were distracted from a specific task or activity.
All physical factors, outside of sexual activity, increased one’s risk for back pain, with the most dangerous being awkward positioning or poor posture. Although many of the triggers have been shown to be hazardous in the past, researchers were surprised by the risk of back pain in terms of fatigue and distraction.
It also appears that pain onset was most often triggered between 7:00 and 10:00 am. Although researchers aren’t exactly sure why this is, they believe that swollen spinal discs may play a role. Overnight, your discs swell with fluid and this may explain why one’s lower back is under more strain and pressure in the morning.
The link between poor posture and lower back pain isn’t anything new, but since distraction was by far the greatest contributing factor, mindfulness may act as an effective preventative measure. Also, as patients aged, they were less prone to pain caused by heavy loads — with 20-year olds being most at risk and 60-year olds being least at risk.
This study was the first of its kind to show that the risk associated with heavy loads decreases with age. This may simply be explained by older individuals learning to lift correctly, being more careful based on experience. Future research will focus on how to modify specific triggers, as well as risk factors such as driving and smoking.
Tips to Avoid Lower Back Pain
Based on some of the key triggers discussed above, it’s important to be conscious of certain factors. By understanding triggers, you can significantly reduce your risk of injury. Whether you’re around the house or at work, it’s essential that you consider risk behaviours to avoid injury.
- Trigger — Carrying objects in an awkward position: When carrying an item in an awkward position, you’re eight times more likely to develop acute lower back pain. Be aware of your posture to significantly reduce your risk. When lifting anything — whether it’s light or heavy, maintain good posture. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and your back should remain straight, as you use your leg muscles to lift.
- Trigger — Being distracted when participating in a task: When you’re distracted during a task, possibly being interrupted when carrying a heavy load, you significantly increase your risk of lower back pain. Whenever you’re taking part in a task that places strain on your back, stay as focused as possible. Do not let your mind wander and be mindful of your posture. The same is true when you’re fatigued, so if you’re feeling tired, do not participate in anything too taxing.
Although accidents happen, lower back pain can be avoided in many cases. Be aware of your surroundings and the tasks in which you need to complete. Also, if you need to lift heavy objects, it’s recommended that you do so in the afternoon or evening if possible.
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