Risk Factors for Low Back Pain: A Population-Based Longitudinal Study

Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2019 Feb;71(2):290-299. doi: 10.1002/acr.23710.


Objective: To identify risk factors for low back pain (LBP) and lumbar radicular pain and to assess whether obesity and exposure to workload factors modify the effect of leisure-time physical activity on LBP and lumbar radicular pain.

Methods: The population of this 11-year longitudinal study consists of a nationally representative sample of Finns ages ≥30 years (n = 3,505). The outcomes of the study were LBP and lumbar radicular pain for >7 days or for >30 days in the past 12 months at follow-up.

Results: LBP and lumbar radicular pain were more common in women than in men. LBP slightly declined with increasing age, while lumbar radicular pain increased with age. Abdominal obesity (defined by waist circumference) increased the risk of LBP (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.40 [95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.16-1.68] for LBP >7 days and adjusted OR 1.41 [95% CI 1.13-1.76] for LBP >30 days) and general obesity (defined by body mass index) increased the risk of lumbar radicular pain (adjusted OR 1.44 [95% CI 1.12-1.85] for pain >7 days and adjusted OR 1.62 [95% CI 1.16-2.26] for pain >30 days). Smoking and strenuous physical work increased the risk of both LBP and lumbar radicular pain. Walking or cycling to work reduced the risk of LBP, particularly LBP for >30 days (adjusted OR 0.75 [95% CI 0.59-0.95]), with the largest reductions among nonabdominally obese individuals and among those not exposed to physical workload factors. Using vibrating tools increased the risk of lumbar radicular pain.

Conclusion: Lifestyle and physical workload factors increase the risk of LBP and lumbar radicular pain. Walking and cycling may have preventive potential for LBP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Surveys / methods
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Low Back Pain / diagnosis
  • Low Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Low Back Pain / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity, Abdominal / diagnosis
  • Obesity, Abdominal / epidemiology*
  • Obesity, Abdominal / physiopathology
  • Occupational Exposure* / adverse effects
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sciatica / diagnosis
  • Sciatica / epidemiology*
  • Sciatica / physiopathology
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Waist Circumference / physiology