Public Release:  Study identifies low back pain risk factors

Counseling at-risk patients may prevent and minimize pain

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

New research presented today at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) identifies nicotine dependence, obesity, alcohol abuse and depressive disorders as risk factors for low back pain, a common condition causing disability, missed work, high medical costs and diminished life quality.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) 2012 National Health Survey, nearly one-third of U.S. adults reported that they had suffered from low back pain during the previous three months. For many adults, low back pain is debilitating and chronic. Determining modifiable risk factors for low back pain could help avoid or diminish the financial and emotional costs of this condition.

Researchers reviewed electronic records of more than 26 million patients from 13 health care systems across the U.S., including 1.2 million patients diagnosed with low back pain (approximately 4.54 percent of the patient records).

The review found that 19.3 percent of the patients diagnosed with a depressive disorder reported lower back pain, as did 16.75 percent of patients diagnosed as obese (a body mass index, or BMI, >30kg/m²), 16.53 percent of the patients diagnosed with nicotine dependence, and 14.66 percent with reported alcohol abuse. Patients with nicotine dependence, obesity, depressive disorders, and alcohol abuse were had "statistically significant" relative risks of 4.489, 6.007, 5.511 and 3.326 for low back pain, respectively, when compared to other patients.

"This study used an electronic health care database to identify modifiable risk factors--obesity, depressive disorders, alcohol and tobacco use--in patients with low back pain," said lead study author and orthopaedic surgeon Scott Shemory, MD. "The findings will allow physicians to better counsel and more closely follow their high-risk patients."

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