When suffering from low back pain or neck pain, one of the last areas you might think about is your lifestyle, including diet, smoking habits, physical activity, and alcohol intake. While clear connections have been made between lifestyle factors and diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes, healthy lifestyle behaviors have not usually been a consideration as a treatment for pain, especially nonspecific pain like low back pain. Though they seem unrelated, research has shown a correlation between back pain and lifestyle choices.
Healthy Lifestyle Behaviors and Preventing Low Back Pain
One Swedish study revealed that lifestyle factors, such as smoking, alcohol consumption, activity levels, and fruit and vegetable consumption, influenced participants’ risk of developing low back pain over a 4-year period. The study included almost 4000 men and a little over 5000 women, with participants ranging in age from 18 to 84. Researchers constructed guidelines for healthy lifestyle behaviors, including not smoking, low consumption of alcohol, at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise/week, and at least 4 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
The study results showed that incorporating healthy lifestyle behaviors over a 4-year period reduced women’s risk for developing low back pain by 35 percent for participants who only followed one healthy lifestyle guideline and up to 52 percent for women who followed all four healthy lifestyle behaviors. Interestingly, male participants had an overall reduced risk of developing low back pain, regardless of lifestyle choices, but even so, healthy lifestyle behaviors had a positive impact on their risk of developing low back pain, albeit less dramatically than women.