- The most common cause of low back pain is muscle strain caused by poor posture or excessive exercise.
- Other common causes of low back pain include trauma, osteoporosis, and arthritis.
- Low back pain can be relieved by stretching, correcting posture and some medications.
- For more suggestions, please visit Insider’s Health Reference Library.
Low back pain is a very common illness, and as many as 80% of people will experience it in their lifetime. Back pain can be debilitating and affect your ability to work, exercise, or spend time with friends and family.
However, if you understand the cause of low back pain, you can relieve low back pain. Although it is best to consult a doctor to determine the source of pain, here are ten common causes of low back pain.
1. Muscle strain
Muscle strain is the most common cause of back pain. Signs that your back pain may be caused by a muscle strain include stiffness, back cramps, pain radiating through the lower back to the buttocks, difficulty standing normally, and pain for more than ten days.
According to Ai Mukai, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician certified by the Texas Plastic Surgery Council, muscle strains may occur due to:
- Overstretching muscles
- Excessive use of muscles, such as lifting heavy objects
- Bad posture
- Contact sports
- Repeated bending or twisting
How to relieve it:
- Apply ice. A 2014 review found that applying ice packs to acute musculoskeletal injuries can reduce pain, muscle spasms and inflammation.
- Physical therapy
- Light massage
- Muscle electrical stimulation
Unlike other causes that develop over time, back pain caused by trauma is sudden. According to Karena Wu of DPT, owner of ActiveCare Physical Therapy and Mukai, traumas that can cause low back pain include:
- Car accident
- Repetitive sports injury
- Lift something that is too heavy or use your back
How to relieve: Ice compress, light stretching and massage can alleviate the pain caused by trauma. According to the degree of injury, doctors can provide more specific treatment options.
Fragile bones-a disease called osteoporosis-can cause vertebrae to fracture or collapse, causing back pain.
How to relieve: Treatment depends on the severity and progression of osteoporosis. Options include:
- Estrogen therapy, often used in young women
- Reduce alcohol intake, suitable for mild to severe cases
- Drugs to prevent bone loss
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting approximately 32.5 million people in the United States. It occurs when the cartilage in the joints begins to decompose, including the cartilage in the spine, which can cause back pain.
If you experience other symptoms, such as stiffness, swelling, and limited range of motion in your hands, hips, or knees, osteoarthritis may cause your back pain.
How to relieve: Medicines such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help control back pain caused by osteoarthritis. Long-term physical and occupational therapy can also alleviate discomfort. In more severe cases, procedures such as steroid or cortisone injections and joint replacements may be required.
5. Herniated disc
When the jelly-like center of the intervertebral disc is pushed out through the shell, a herniated disc occurs. It not only causes pain in your lower back, but also pain in your hips, thighs or calves. Other symptoms include general numbness and muscle weakness.
A herniated disc may be caused by the following reasons:
- Frequent wear due to aging
- Decreased flexibility with age
- Use your back muscles instead of your legs to lift
- Twist when lifted
How to relieve:
- Repeatedly bend backwards, as comfortable as possible
- Kinesiology recording
- Stability exercise
- Pain and inflammation treatments, such as taking anti-inflammatory drugs,
- Epidural injection can relieve the pain of a herniated disc.
Fibromyalgia, which affects 4 million Americans, is a condition that suffers from muscle pain in multiple parts of the body for at least three months. Researchers believe that this is because the pain sensor in the brain is enhanced. In addition to back pain, it can also cause dull pain in the hips, shoulders, and legs.
How to relieve: Over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription antidepressants, as well as physical and occupational therapy, can help relieve fibromyalgia. In a 2017 study, researchers found that a combination of aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening exercise is the most effective way to reduce pain and increase health in patients with fibromyalgia.
7. Ankylosing spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the back vertebrae and other joints. It can cause severe back pain and stiffness, and sometimes pain and stiffness in other parts of the body, such as the hips, ribs, and hands.
How to relieve: Cases of ankylosing spondylitis vary from person to person, but physical therapy, ice and warm compresses, painkillers, and posture exercises can alleviate the pain.
8. Spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis occurs when one or more spaces in your spinal canal become narrow. This narrowing can cause irritation or compression of the spinal cord and nerves, which can lead to back pain ranging from dull pain to burning pain or sciatica. Spinal stenosis is usually caused by osteoporosis and usually occurs in the neck or waist.
How to relieve: Analgesics such as ibuprofen and physical therapy are commonly used methods to relieve the pain of spinal stenosis. More severe cases may require steroid injections or decompression surgery to increase spinal space.
9. Multiple myeloma
Multiple myeloma is a cancer of blood cells in the bones. It accelerates the breakdown of bones, especially those in the spine. This may cause back pain due to fractures. Signs of multiple myeloma also include fatigue, increased urination, and repeated infections.
How to relieve: Pain relievers, radiation therapy, and bone-supporting surgery can help relieve back pain caused by multiple myeloma.
10. Spinal deformity
Spinal deformities prevent the spine from functioning properly and may cause low back pain. Types of spinal deformities include:
How to relieve: Treatment of spinal deformities includes physical therapy, posture training, and back braces.
Some back pains come quickly, but sometimes, you need to see a doctor. According to Wu and Mukai, you should see a doctor if:
- Pain radiates to the legs or feet
- A feeling of numbness or weakness that breaks your legs
- Pain after trauma lasts shortly
- Back pain lasts more than one or two weeks
- Bladder or stool incontinence