According to statistics, low back pain is the most common cause of disability worldwide. There are many causes of back pain, but a study published in the journal The Lancet Rheumatology points to three main causes: poor ergonomics in the workplace, obesity and smoking.
It affects more women than men
In Spain, low back pain is the second most common chronic health problem, affecting 18.5% of the population, as reported by the National Health System.
According to the authors of the study, the situation is similar in many countries, and in all women suffer from this problem more than men, especially after the age of 75.
Three risk factors for back pain
Of all cases of back pain, up to 40 percent can have three causes:
- Ergonomic factors in the workplace, such as lifting heavy loads, standing for long periods of time, or sitting in awkward positions, are causes of back pain.
- Being overweight entails an overload for the musculoskeletal structure in general and for the back in particular.
- Studies show a link between tobacco use and chronic back pain. Nicotine can narrow blood vessels and reduce the supply of nutrients to the bones, intervertebral discs and back muscles.
The study authors analyze the economic cost to society of back pain, the incidence of which increases as the population ages. Researchers estimate that the number of people affected will grow from 500 million today to 840 million over the next three decades.
To prevent sick leave due to back pain, the authors propose that measures be taken to improve working conditions and that prevention programs and effective treatments be designed.
The treatment of controlling and reducing body weight and the fight against smoking occupy a special place among preventive measures.
How can back pain be prevented?
In addition to improving workplace ergonomics, keeping your weight under control, and not smoking, there are other steps you can take to reduce your risk of disabling back pain:
Do exercises that strengthen the abdominal and low back muscles, as they help support and stabilize the spine.
- Maintain good body posture: Avoid slouching or rolling your shoulders when sitting, standing or walking. Keep your back straight and your shoulders relaxed.
- Strengthens the core muscles: These include the abdominal, low back, gluteal and deep spinal muscles. These muscles are essential for providing stability and support to the spine and pelvis.
- Stretch regularly. To keep your back muscles flexible, do gentle stretches. Yoga and Pilates can be beneficial for improving back flexibility and strength.
- Exercise regularly: Being physically active is important for maintaining a healthy back. Regular exercise strengthens muscles and improves flexibility, which can reduce the risk of back pain. Choose activities that you enjoy, such as walking, swimming, or practicing yoga.
- Lift objects correctly: When lifting heavy objects, bend your knees and use your leg muscles instead of arching your back. When lifting, keep the object close to your body.
- Sleep in the right position: Choose a mattress and pillow that is right for your back and sleep in a position that keeps your spine in a straight line. Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs can help reduce the pressure on your back.
- Manuela L. Ferreira, Katie De Luca, Lydia M. Hale; and others. Global, regional, and national burden of low back pain, 1990–2020, its attributable risk factors, and projections to 2050: a systematic analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2021. Lancet Rheumatology