Harvard Men's Health Watch

What triggers back pain?

There's been a lot of research on what puts men at greater risk of back problems, like being overweight or sedentary. But we know less about what exactly triggers a bout of back pain. A new study in Arthritis Care and Research helps fill that gap.

The study involved 1,000 people who went to 300 different clinics in Australia with low back pain. The researchers carefully interviewed the participants to figure out when the back pain started and possible triggers they noticed within two hours of when the pain started.

Not surprisingly, physical factors like carrying heavy loads or lifting loads in an awkward position were closely tied to back pain. Being tired, fatigued, or distracted—which hypothetically could lead to back-injuring accidents—also topped the list. Sexual activity and drinking alcohol were not strong triggers in this group of back pain sufferers.

The study emphasizes that back pain does not come out of the blue. Identifying your own triggers—and trying to avoid them in the future—might be helpful if you have a "trick" back. Other research shows consistently that once you do develop recurrent back pain, daily exercise helps reduce the frequency of flare-ups. And when you have back pain, it's best to keep doing your usual daily activities as much as possible as your back heals.

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