The Risk Factors of Low Back Pain


Various risk factors have been identified as contributors to low back pain.

Common risk factors like nicotine dependence, obesity, alcohol abuse, and depressive disorders have been identified as contributors to low back pain, according to research presented at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).

Researchers from Akron, Ohio determined the risk factors for low back pain in order to completely avoid or diminish the financial and emotional cost of the condition. The researchers noted that low back pain is a common condition which leads to disability, missed work, high medical costs, and a reduced quality of life. Additionally, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) determined that in 2012, almost one third of US adults reported suffering from low back pain in the previous 3 months.

The researchers used a software program to mine through pooled healthcare databases, which compiled the data from over 26 million patients. They identified 1.2 million individuals with low back pain diagnosis. The investigators identified nicotine dependence, obesity, depressive disorders, and alcohol abuse as factors contributing to low back pain.

“This study used an electronic health care database to identify modifiable risk factors — obesity, depressive disorders, alcohol, and tobacco use – in patients with low back pain,” lead study author and orthopedic surgeon Scott Shemory, MD, explained in a press release. “The findings will allow physicians to better counsel and more closely follow their high risk patients.”

In the general population, low back pain was found to occur in 4.54% of individuals. For nicotine dependent patients, the incidence of low back pain increased significantly to 16.53%. The low back pain prevalence was 14.66% in alcohol abuse patients, 16.75% in patients with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, and 19.30% in patients with a depressive disorder. The relative risk in patients with low back pain was determined to be 4.49, 6.01, 5.51, and 3.33, respectively, for low back pain when the researchers compared these patient populations to groups without the defined risk factor.

“To minimize the morbidity, cost, and potential disability in patients diagnosed with low back pain, it is important to determine modifiable and treatable patient risk factors,” the authors wrote. “Nicotine dependence, obesity, depressive disorders, and alcohol abuse were determined to be significant patient risk factors for low back pain in our cohort of 26 million.”

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