Want To Avoid Low Back Pain? Don't Get Into Awkward Positions.

Study: Awkward positions, distractions, fatigue trigger low back pain

Engaging in manual tasks involving awkward positions increases a person’s risk of low back pain by eight times, according to new research into the physical and psychosocial factors that contribute to low back pain. The study also found being distracted during activities or fatigued also significantly increase a person’s risk of acute low back pain.

The results were published Feb. 9 in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.

At some point, nearly 10% of the world’s population experience back pain, which is the leading cause of disability according to the World Health Organization’s 2010 Global Burden of Disease report. The WHO reports low back pain has a greater impact on global health than malaria, diabetes or lung cancer; yet little progress has been made to identify effective prevention strategies.

“Understanding which risk factors contribute to back pain and controlling exposure to these risks is an important first step in prevention,” Manuela L. Ferreira, PhD, associate professor with the George Institute for Global Health and Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia, said in a news release. “Our study is the first to examine brief exposure to a range of modifiable triggers for an acute episode of low back pain.”

For this case-crossover study, researchers recruited 999 participants from 300 primary care clinics in Sydney who had an acute low back pain episode between October 2011 and November 2012. Study subjects were asked to report exposure to 12 physical or psychosocial factors in the 96 hours before the onset of back pain.

The risk of a new episode of low back pain significantly increased because of a range of triggers, from an odds ratio of 2.7 for moderate to vigorous physical activity to 25.0 for distraction during an activity, the study showed. Researchers found age moderated the effect of exposure to heavy loads, with odds ratio for individuals 20, 40 or 60 years of age at 13.6, 6.0 and 2.7, respectively. A new finding not reported previously was that back pain risk was highest between 7 a.m. and noon.

“Understanding which modifiable risk factors lead to low back pain is an important step toward controlling a condition that affects so many worldwide,” Ferreira said in the release. “Our findings enhance knowledge of low back pain triggers and will assist the development of new prevention programs that can reduce suffering from this potentially disabling condition.”

Study abstract: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/acr.22533

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