What Are the Causes of Lower Back Pain?

Back pain

If you are suffering from low back pain, it’s likely because of some kind of injury to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support your back. 

Back pain is often caused by mechanical issues. Intervertebral discs can be damaged as well as nerve roots can be compressed in these injuries. If you sit at a desk all day, your back can get sore from poor posture. There are several different kinds of back pain and confusion over the type of pain you are experiencing can delay diagnosis and treatment.

Most patients who suffer from low back pain experience mild to moderate discomfort. Pain can also be accompanied by tingling and numbness in the extremities, loss of balance and coordination, and difficulty sleeping.

To understand how low back pain occurs, it is important to know how each part of the body works. The spine gets its stability from the joints between each vertebra. The movement between these joints is controlled by six muscles. This helps absorb shock to the spine and keeps the spine straight and aligned.

Ligament sprain and muscle strain

Low back sprain or strain occurs when there is some kind of force that places sudden demands on the musculature and soft tissues of the lumbar spine.

Lower back pain can develop slowly over time, as with age-related degeneration of the discs in your spine. It can also happen suddenly as you reach to pick something up or bend over to lift a heavy weight. Although most lower back pain is not due to serious injury, it does indicate that there is some problem going on.

  • The muscle tears when it is overstretched, leading to a strain.
  • A strain occurs when the ligaments that connect the bones are overstretched or torn.

Symptoms and treatment are similar regardless of whether the muscle or ligament has been injured. The following are some common causes of sprains and strains:

  • If you lift a heavy object, or if you twist your spine while lifting
  • A sudden movement that puts too much pressure on the lower back, such as a fall
  • Developing a poor posture over time
  • Injuries in sports, especially those that include twisting or large forces of impact

In spite of their not sounding serious and not typically causing long-lasting pain, sprains and strains can cause quite a bit of acute pain.

The causes of chronic back pain


A symptom that lasts for longer than 12 weeks is referred to as chronic. For example, if a person has back pain, takes time off work, waits for the pain to pass, then resumes normal activity only for the pain to return, this is considered chronic pain.

Disc problems, joint problems, and/or irritated nerve roots are the most common causes of chronic low back pain. Among the most common causes are:

Lumbar herniated disc

Lumbar herniated disc is considered as one of the most important causes of chronic lower back pain.   The lumbar spine has a large number of nerves running through it that make it vulnerable to injury because these nerves are more fragile than the other parts found in the spinal cord. Herniated discs may arise on account of many reasons and are always seen in people who have an active lifestyle.

Degenerative disc disease

This form of lower back pain is caused by deterioration of the disc that cushions the bones in the spine. As the inner layer of the disc wears down, it may get thinner, punctured or even rupture, causing a loss of height in the disc. Sometimes up to 25% of the discs in an elderly person’s lower back have degenerated.

Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition that causes pressure on the spinal cord, due to a narrowing of the spinal canal and/or associated structures. It’s mainly caused by degenerative changes in the spine or ageing.


Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease or osteoarthrosis, is a type of “wear-and-tear” arthritis that results from normal ageing and wear and tear on your joints. 

The term “osteo” means bone, and “arthritis” means inflammation. Together they describe the disease in which your joints have cartilage (“padding”) that wears down over time, causing pain and stiffness. Osteoarthritis causes problems in all areas of the body where bones meet cartilage, but it most commonly affects your knees, hips and spine. Nearly everyone will have some degree of this disorder during their lifetime.


One of the most common reasons for chronic lower back pain is actually a congenital deformity of the spine. This deformity can be scoliosis or even just a slight curvature of the spine. Since it is often present since birth, those who suffer from this type of deformity have long gotten used to it and don’t feel it at all.


Trauma is a leading cause of chronic lower back pain. When you fall, your spine compresses briefly as your body hits the ground. This type of compression can injure the tissues of the spinal column, damage disks and result in inflammation of surrounding nerve roots. If you suffer from lower back pain, it might be a good idea to try physical therapy before you start any type of home cure or treatment.


Chronic lower back pain can be caused by infection. Infections of the spine are usually bacterial in nature and start in the vertebral column from a bacteremia (bloodstream infection). 

The most common known cause of infection is tuberculosis but it can also be due to bacterial invasion due to a recent epidural or an endocarditis associated with rheumatic fever. 

Anybody with a history of infectious disease such as tuberculosis or septic joint or soft tissue infection should be considered suspect of having a spine infection until proven otherwise, especially if they also have chronic lower back pain.


There are a number of causes of chronic low back pain. Although this list may appear long at first glance, it is important you remember back pain is very common and physicians see people every day with this condition. The majority of patients can be treated effectively with simple therapy directed at the identified cause at Specialist centres like Treasurehold Specialist Hospital.

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