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common causes of lower back pain

5 Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain affects an estimated 80% of Americans at some point in their life.

It can come in different forms with varying severities. If you suffer from back pain, you know just how unenjoyable it can be.

There are several back pain solutions, and the treatment needed depends on the cause.

For a rundown of the most common causes of lower back pain, keep reading.

Non-Specific Low Back Pain

About 85% of cases of lower back pain are classified as non-specific. This is essentially when the sufferer is experiencing pain, but it cannot be attributed to a specific abnormality or disease.

Low back pain can often be felt in the hips, legs, or buttocks – the symptoms vary from person to person. Pain can come on gradually or suddenly and can feel either sharp or dull. These varying attributes are one of the reasons it is generally hard to pinpoint a cause.

Some of the most common reasons for low back pain include:

  • Physical trauma
  • Poor health
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Bad posture
  • Repetitive movements

If you have low back pain, it could easily be the result of one or more of the above, but it is also possible that there is no direct cause at all.

On top of these, there are a few things that can increase your risk of suffering from lower back pain. This includes doing physically strenuous work, having a job that requires sitting for most of the day, being overweight, or smoking.

Sometimes even mental factors can affect lower back pain. Things like having a stressful job or depression/anxiety can increase the risk.

Physical therapy and exercise can be very helpful in reducing lower back pain. Ideally, this includes low-impact activities that get you moving like walking, swimming, and yoga.

Icing can also help reduce symptoms, and maintaining good posture will help in the long run.

Specific Causes of Low Back Pain

Outside of non-specific low back pain, there are a number of identifiable causes of lower back pain. Again, pain could be caused by just one or multiple issues.

1. Poor/Repetitive Movements

A strain is when a muscle tears after stretching too far. A sprain is similar but damages the ligaments that connect the bones together. Both of these can occur suddenly or slowly over some time due to repetitive movements.

These are often the result of heavy lifting, twisting the spine while lifting, sudden movements (such as a fall), poor posture, or sports injuries.

Strains and sprains are among the more common causes of lower back pain and can be quite serious but are generally not long-lasting. They can take a few months to heal, but sometimes just a few days.

Your doctor can advise for the best lower back pain treatment, but if it persists, then the pain might be from something else. Sometimes a doctor may not be able to identify a specific cause, in which case physical therapy might help.

2. Activity and Posture

The muscles in the lower back support the spine. Weaker muscles make a person more susceptible to low back pain. It is important to maintain a balance between overworking and underworking these muscles.

This can be more common for people with bad posture, usually from working at a desk all day. If you have a desk job, you should make an effort to stand up and move around from time to time. Standing desks are becoming more common in workplaces to combat this.

3. Structural Problems

Scoliosis is a common example of a structural problem that can occur. It is an abnormal curvature of the spine. The need for treatment is not usually determined by the degree of curvature but rather the amount of pain or functional issues.

A doctor can advise on how you can treat it, which could consist of any of the following:

  • Over-the-counter pain medication
  • Core strengthening exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Surgery (a last resort in severe cases)

Spinal stenosis is another structural issue caused by the spinal column being too narrow for the spinal cord. Pinching of the spinal cord can cause severe nerve and lower back pain. Physical therapy can often help with this.

4. Trauma

Acute fractures and dislocations can occur in the spine after trauma such as a car accident or a fall. Conditions such as spondylolysis or osteoporosis make these types of fractures more common.

Compression fractures are the result of the bone essentially collapsing in on itself. These generally happen due to weak bones and are therefore more common in elderly people.

Fractures can sometimes happen at a young age but not actually cause any pain until later in life.

A doctor should always be seen for a fracture, and treatment will usually require an immobilization brace/corset for up to 12 weeks. In more severe cases, surgery may be the only solution.

5. Joint Dysfunction/Arthritis

Each disc in the spine has two facet joints, which have cartilage between the bones. At the bottom of the spine is the sacroiliac joint, which connects the sacrum to the pelvis. Both of these joints can cause pain if there is inflammation or if they experience too little or too much motion.

There are several types of arthritis that can cause lower back pain, with the most common being osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is caused when the disc and facet joints are worn down with time, causing pain, instability, inflammation, and stenosis. It progresses slowly with age and can occur in one or multiple areas of the lower spine.

Physical therapy and core exercises can help reduce the stress on these joints by strengthening the spine. Activity should be limited when the pain is severe, but too much rest can actually have a worse effect, so a reasonable balance is needed.

Managing Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

Many common causes of lower back pain require similar treatments. Physical therapy is an excellent lower back pain remedy, as it keeps the body active while helping with pain and stiffness. It can also help you avoid having to take any medication.

Compass Physical Therapy has a team of professional therapists trained to perform physical therapy for back pain or other physical problems you might have. 

We provide the highest quality service to those in Asheville and the surrounding area of North Carolina. Click here to contact us today and see how we can help you.