Smoking can more than double an adolescent's risk of developing
long-term low back pain, according to a recent study in the
American Journal of Epidemiology. Previous research
has linked chronic
back pain in adults with an early onset and previous history
of the problem, so preventing symptoms during the teenage
years may reduce pain later.
Researchers investigated the influence of various risk factors
on development of pain: high growth spurt; poor flexibility;
poor abdominal strength; physical activity; work; mental health;
and smoking. Five hundred and two high school students were
studied over one year, and data were gathered from student
questionnaires and physical measurements.
Overall, 17 percent of adolescents reported low back pain.
A major growth spurt (more than two inches in six months)
was the most noticeable risk factor - it tripled the odds
of developing pain. But the other major contributors to developing
pain were all preventable: smoking, working out, and poor
flexibility in the major upper-leg muscles.
Education is a good first step to keep your teenagers from
developing low back pain. Warn them about the risk factors
for developing a problem, and the consequences they will face
later in life. In addition, be sure they follow a few simple
- Avoid smoking.
- Stretch leg muscles adequately, especially prior to working
- If weightlifting, be sure to follow proper techniques
and don't overdo it.
Feldman DE, Shrier I, Rossignol M, et al.
Risk factors for the development of low back pain in adolescence.
American Journal of Epidemiology 2001: 154(1), pp.
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