New systematic review looks at the risk factors for back pain in young people

Publication Date: 
Thursday, January 23, 2020

An international team with Maritime connections has published a new systematic review in the European Spine Journal that considers the evidence for chronic physical illnesses, mental health disorders, and psychological features as risk factors for back pain in children, adolescents, and young adults.

Previous research identified several potential risk factors for back pain. However, these studies are often of adults, making it difficult to distinguish potential risk factors for the initial onset of back pain from triggers for particular episodes of back pain. 

“Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Canada and the world. Back pain starts at a young age for many, yet the cause of pain can’t be identified in most cases. The identification of factors that signal who is at risk of developing back pain can help us to understand this important health problem,” says Dr. Jeff Hebert, Professor and the NBHRF/CCRF Research Chair in Musculoskeletal Health at the University of New Brunswick

Dr. Hebert, an author on the paper, approached the Maritime SPOR SUPPORT Unit (MSSU) for a research consultation in 2018. Leah Boulos, MSSU Evidence Synthesis Coordinator, developed and performed the literature search for the team, which included several researchers at Murdoch University in Australia.

“With the support of the MSSU, we discovered that psychological distress and psychological features such as emotional coping problems are likely risk factors for back pain in young people,” adds Amber Beynon, a PhD student at Murdoch University and first-author of the paper.

The findings were presented at the Chiropractic Australia National Conference, where Ms. Beynon received the Second Place Prize for Podium Presentation. The results will also be presented at the upcoming Canadian Pain Society Annual Scientific Meeting in Calgary.


Beynon AM, Hebert JJ, Hodgetts CJ, Boulos LM, Walker BF. Chronic physical illnesses, mental health disorders, and psychological features as potential risk factors for back pain from childhood to young adulthood: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Eur Spine J. 2020; 10.1007/s00586-019-06278-6.

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