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Risk Factors for Low Back Pain and Sciatica
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.
Risk factors include:
Overuse of the back muscles during any activity.
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:
Participating in Strenuous or Contact Sports
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 disks.
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
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Chronic low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
Freedman MK. Saulino MF. Overton EA. Holding MY. Kornbluth ID. Interventions in chronic pain management. 5. Approaches to medication and lifestyle in chronic pain syndromes. Archives of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. 89(3 Suppl 1):S56-60, 2008 Mar.
Leboeuf-Yde C. Body weight and low back pain. A systematic literature review of 56 journal articles reporting on 65 epidemiologic studies. Spine. 25(2):226-37, 2000 Jan 15.
Pain. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
Sciatica. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
Last reviewed November 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD; Michael Woods, MD
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