Factors that can trigger pain in the lower back include working in awkward positions, being distracted, and being physically or mentally tired, a new study shows.
"Back pain is a major public health concern," said Manuela Ferreira at The University of Sydney, Australia, one of the study's authors. "It's among the leading causes of disability around the world."
Ferreira and her colleagues interviewed nearly 1,000 people who developed sudden lower back pain, asking whether they'd been exposed to any of 12 possible triggers in the two hours before their pain started.
Overall, people were most likely to have sudden lower back pain in the morning.
Manual tasks involving awkward positions were tied to an eight-fold increase in risk for lower back pain, the researchers found.
Being distracted during a task or activity increased the risk of sudden lower back pain by 25%. Being physically or mentally tired increased the risk about four times.
Alcohol consumption and sex were not tied to an increased risk of sudden lower back pain, however.
The new study can't explain why certain things greatly increased the risk of back pain while others did not.
There are some theories, however. For example, people may be at higher risk of back pain in the morning because they may not be fully alert yet. Or, Ferreira said, the disks in the spine might be more susceptible to damage in the morning.
People who are used to lifting heavy objects probably know how to do it safely, but people should ask for guidance from doctors or physical therapists if they're unsure.
"Although we have many studies looking at the interventions for back pain, we don't have a lot of knowledge about prevention," Ferreira said.
"People who are not involved with these activities on a daily basis should pay attention to how they're lifting," she advised. "Even brief exposures to those activities can lead to back pain."
Also, it helps to be physically and mentally strong, with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
For information on treating chronic back pain, contact the Franklin Pain and Wellness Center.