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Redmond Regional Medical Center

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.

Muscles that support the back can become weak with lack of exercise.

Work that requires the following motions puts additional stress on the back:

  • Heavy lifting
  • Bending or twisting
  • Exposure to vibrations, such as riding in a car or operating heavy machinery
  • Injuries from contact sports or falls can result in back pain.
  • High-impact sports, for example, distance running

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.

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 disks in your back begin to lose water content and degenerate. This increases the risk of disk problems and back pain, especially after age 40. However, even with some disk degeneration, most people do not have back pain.

Stress, anxiety, and negative mood may increase your risk of low back pain

Revision Information

  • Acute low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated June 26, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.

  • Bogduk N. Degenerative joint disease of the spine. Radiol Clin North Am. 2012;15(4):613-28.

  • Chronic low back pain. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated November 6, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.

  • Freedman MK, Saulino MF, et al. 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: Updated August 30, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.

  • Sciatica. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated November 4, 2013. Accessed November 21, 2013.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. Redmond Regional Medical Center does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.