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Posted on 06-19-2015

When you feel that familiar twinge or ache in your back, you might dismiss it as an old sports injury. Or maybe you worked out too hard the other day. Perhaps you were involved in a car accident, and you haven't fully recovered from the whiplash yet.

But did you know that back pain can happen for a variety of reasons, not just injury?

The following factors can significantly increase the likelihood that you'll experience back pain.

  1. You Work a Desk Job

If you sit for extended lengths of time, you may be more likely to experience nerve pain in your neck, back, and shoulders. This is because sitting all day can flatten the curve in your lower back, shifting the strain to your upper body.

To support your back, consider sitting on an exercise ball instead of a conventional office chair. Sitting on a balance ball keeps your back muscles more active.  You can also try chairs with seats that angle forward, holding the back in a healthier curve.  

  1. You're Over 30

You likely already know that elderly adults regularly experience back pain. Years of poor habits or tough conditions can put strain on an arthritic spine. However, even adults in their early 30s can experience back pain and disc-related disorders.

Fortunately, you can delay disc breakdown and muscle spasms through regular exercise and practicing good posture. Also, pay attention to how you lift objects. Ideally you should not lift more than 25% of your body weight without assistance.

  1. Your Parents or Grandparents Had Spinal Disorders

If your parents suffered from degenerating or herniated discs, you may experience the same problem. According to studies (http://http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/news/20110204/back-pain-may-be-inherited), individuals with an immediate family member (such as a parent, sibling, or child) with disc-related low back pain are more than four times more likely to experience low-back pain as well.

If you have a family history of back pain, you'll want to do everything you can to keep your back healthy. Perform regular back strengthening exercises or participate in yoga to encourage strong muscles and proper posture.

  1. You Rarely Leave the Couch

After working all day, you might feel tempted to crash on the couch. Maybe you watch your favorite TV shows, or you catch up on your social media feeds. Every once in a while you get up to grab a snack, but for the most part, you stay on your comfy recliner or sofa.

But as with desk jobs, sitting too long can wreak havoc on your back. If you don't work them regularly, the muscles in your back will start to atrophy. You may feel stiff, and over time, you may have increased difficulty walking-leading to an ever-downward spiral.

According to Katy Bowman (http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/06/22/desk.job.bad.health/), director of the Restorative Exercise Institute, "If you're sitting for 8 to 12 hours a day, and you're taking a one-hour yoga class, it's not enough." To minimize back pain, you should include more movement throughout your day. Every hour or so, take a 10 to 15 minute break to stretch and walk.

  1. You're Overweight

While a few pounds here and there might not seem like much to you, they add a great deal of pressure to your back and joints.

According to a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (http://www.aaos.org/news/aaosnow/dec13/clinical2.asp), lower back pain increases as body mass index (BMI) increases. Individuals at a normal weight have a 2.9 percent risk of experiencing lower back pain. Overweight individuals, on the other hand, nearly double that risk at 5.2 percent. Obese individuals have a 7.7 percent likelihood of experiencing back pain, and the extremely obese had the highest percent: 11.6.

Physical exercise and activity can temper these risks. Even light activity, such as folding clothes or walking slowly) can drop the risk of back pain by 17 percent.

  1. You Smoke

Smoking affects more than just your lungs. New studies suggest a link between smoking and lower back pain.

In a study published in the journal Human Brain Mapping

(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/behindtheheadlines/news/2014-11-05-smoking-increases-risk-of-chronic-backpain/), researchers analyzed 160 participants with subacute back pain and 32 participants with chronic back pain. Those with persistent pain were three times more likely to be smokers than those who recovered. And some theorized this is because smoking affects the area of the brain that reduces resilience to pain.

Although research wasn't conclusive and the study sample was small, it may be just one more reason to kick the habit.

  1. You have an Undiagnosed Condition

A variety of medical conditions can lead to back pain, and not all of these conditions are easy to diagnose. The following diseases can trigger low back pain:

  • Sciatica
  • Kidney stones
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Pinched nerves
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Scoliosis
  • Shingles
  • Herniated discs
  • Osteoarthritis

This list is far from comprehensive. If you experience frequent back pain not related to injury, don't hesitate to seek professional help from a doctor or chiropractor. He or she can help you spot underlying conditions and other factors that contribute to back pain so you can receive treatment. 

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