What's the number one risk factor for back pain? It seems like most of my family members have back pain. So far I haven't had any problems, and I don't want any. How can I avoid it?

A history of low back pain is really the most powerful predictor of future episodes. If you haven't had back pain yourself yet, that's a good sign. Whether there's a genetic component to back pain or not remains unknown.

There are other risk factors to consider. Many studies now show social and psychological factors are the most important. These may be even more important than the condition of your spine.

People who are depressed or who tend to "feel" their pain more than others (called amplification) have more back pain. This is true in the short-term as well as over a longer period of time.

Findings on X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs don't always match up with patient's symptoms. Many times the spine is in a state of moderate to severe degeneration and the patient is pain free. Other times the patient is disabled with only mild degenerative changes in the spine.

Good posture, proper lifting, and daily activity and exercise are still the best prescription for preventing back problems.