"Understanding which risk factors contribute to back pain and controlling exposure to these risks is an important first step in prevention," said Manuela Ferreira from University of Sydney in New South Wales.

"Our study is the first to examine brief exposure to a range of modifiable triggers for an acute episode of low back pain," Ferreira added.

At some point, nearly 10 percent of the world population experience back pain, which is the leading cause of disability, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Burden of Disease report.

For the study, the researchers recruited 999 participants from 300 primary care clinics in Sydney who suffered an acute lower back pain episode between October 2011 and November 2012.

Participants were asked to report exposure to 12 physical or psycho-social factors in the 96 hours prior to the onset of back pain.

The risk of a new episode of lower back pain significantly increased due to a range of triggers, from an odds ratio of 2.7 for moderate to vigorous physical activity to 25 for distraction during an activity.

Researchers found that age moderated the effect of exposure to heavy loads.

"Understanding which modifiable risk factors lead to low back pain is an important step toward controlling a condition that affects so many worldwide," Ferreira concluded.

The study was published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

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