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High Body Mass Index Linked to Low Back Pain

Association is stronger in women; study cannot determine whether relationship is causal

THURSDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- A high body mass index is associated with an increased prevalence of low back pain, especially in women, according to a study published in the April 1 issue of Spine.

Ingrid Heuch, M.D., of the Oslo University Hospital in Norway, and colleagues studied 30,102 men and 33,866 women who provided information on body mass index and whether or not they suffered from chronic low back pain.

The researchers found that 6,293 men (20.9 percent) and 8,923 women (26.3 percent) had chronic low back pain. After adjusting for age, they estimated that the odds ratio for low back pain per each 5 kg/m2 increase in body mass index was 1.07 for men and 1.17 for women. They found that these associations were not substantially affected after additional adjustment for potential confounders such as education, smoking status, leisure time physical activity, employment status, and activity at work.

"This large cross-sectional study indicates that there exists a real statistical relation between body mass index and low back pain," the authors conclude. "However, only longitudinal studies can show whether this result reflects a causal relationship."

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