Many Americans suffer from back pain. In fact, the majority of us experience it at some point in our lives. Sometimes the cause is obvious, such as osteoarthritis. Often, though, lesser-known risk factors are involved.

Prevalence of back pain in the US

The statistics make it clear that if you don’t have back pain yourself, you likely know someone who does. More than 26 million working-age Americans have constant or frequent flareups of back pain. Two in five adults have suffered from the condition in the past year. Four in five have experienced it at some time.

Back pain causes a huge amount of suffering. However, the good aspect of its widespread nature is that researchers and specialists have put a lot of thought into its causes.

Many people strain their backs during exercise or when lifting something heavy. For those who are in their sixties or over, spinal stenosis and osteoarthritis are frequent sources, notes Hackensack University neurosurgeon Patrick Roth, MD. “As we age, the joints become enlarged and generate pain,” he says.

Sometimes, though, the causes of back pain are more ambiguous. Here are seven back pain contributors that are less obvious.


There are a couple of ways back pain is impacted by smoking. First, it hinders circulation, which causes the spinal disks to deteriorate. Second, one research report found that smoking can actually reduce pain tolerance.


Sitting increases the amount of force on your spine, which also leads to poor circulation and make you likelier to experience disk damage.


“The lower back is the ultimate example of the mind-body connection,” explains Hospital for Special Surgery physiatrist Vijay Vad, MD. Stress “literally stiffens you,” he says, leading to pain.

Plane rides

Your disk can become bulged in a pressurized jet cabin. You ideally want to check your luggage so you don’t have to use your back right away to get it out of the overhead bin.


Are you thinking about losing weight and getting into shape? You will find this information compelling:

  1. Obese individuals are four times likelier to experience back pain than non-obese people are.
  2. Daily exercise makes you 32% less susceptible to the condition.


You want a medium-firm mattress. Soft ones put you at risk.

Cell phone

Be careful about using your cell phone too much, especially if you are cradling it with your neck. The initial neck pain can spread to the back. Excessive cell phone use is generally dangerous because of the poor posture that often accompanies it.

Getting help

Are you suffering from back pain? At Health Star Clinic, you’ll get a diagnosis that analyzes all the bio-feedback, physical evaluation and environmental factors to create a customized treatment program for you. See our New Patient Promises.