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Science Says These Are The 20 Most Common Causes of Back Pain

by Ryan Peters
muscle man lower back pain

Are you suffering from back pain frequently? Most of us do at some point in our life. Regardless of age, back pain can happen to anyone. And most pains go away after straightening and stretching our backs.

Research shows that back pain is one of the most common reasons for an employee’s absence from work and more than 75 percent of the adult population experiences low back pain. Back pain is common in elderly individuals due to age-related changes in the spine. It can also happen to people of any age after lifting heavy objects or after an injury. Those who have sedentary lifestyles are also prone to low back pain.

Low back pain is taxing. In the US, it ranks third place in the most burdensome conditions caused by a disease.

While back pain can occur after slouching while writing on your desk or working on your laptop, there are back pains that are caused by serious factors. No matter how much you stretch and keep your back and shoulders loose, the pain stays the same and may even worsen.

Science categorizes back pain in two types: acute low back pain and subacute low back pain. Acute low back pain is only short term lasting for about a few days or few weeks. With self-care, it tends to go away on its own without affecting one’s physical functions. Most acute back pain has something to do with how the components of the back work such as the spine, muscles, intervertebral discs, and nerves.

Subacute low back pain lasts longer than the acute kind. The pain can go on for up to 4 to 12 weeks. Chronic back pain is one example of subacute low back pain, in which the pain still lingers on despite treatment and surgical interventions.

The back is composed of vertebrae, discs, rubbery pads, ligaments, tendons, spinal column, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles. All of these have their own specific critical roles to help support much of the upper body’s weight and help with movement. Because of the complexity of its mechanism, problems in any of its parts can cause back pain that can be too intense at times.

Low back pain occurs due to certain factors such as the following:


osteoporosis on bone cross-sectionOsteoporosis is a condition that occurs when the bones start to thin, which is often associated with age. The bones normally go through the process of wear and tear. As old bones go away, new bones emerge to replace them. But you tend to lose your bone mass as you age. The problem in balance starts when the new bones aren’t enough to replace the older bones that are broken down. This can lead to brittle bones that are prone to injury.


Strain in the lower back is also known as lumbar strain. Lumbar muscle strain usually happens when the muscle fibers are torn or stretched beyond their capacity or when the ligaments are torn from their attachments either from an injury or from gradual use.

Accidents or a fall can result in injury in the lumbar area. Certain activities that are likely to cause muscle spasms or low back problems include improperly lifting objects, lifting weights that are too heavy or making an abrupt and awkward movement.

Traumatic injury

Injuries acquired through car accidents, sports or falls can damage the spine and its components. Too much compression in the spine can cause a rupture in the intervertebral disc. And too much compression in the spinal nerves can lead to sciatica and low back pain.

Structural or mechanical problems

These are the issues related to the structures of your back. This problem comes in many forms. The list below are some of the most common examples:

  • Ruptured discs

Also known as herniated discs, ruptured discs take place when the discs that cushion the spine become ruptured and give more pressure on a nerve leading to pain in the lower back.

  • Bulging discs

Problems in the bulging discs happen the same way as ruptured discs but with much more pressure on a nerve.

  • Sciatica

Deriving its term from the sciatic nerve where the issue originally starts, sciatica is caused by a compression of this nerve. The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that runs through the buttocks and extends down the back of the leg. When compressed, it creates a shocking pain in the areas where it runs and at times reaching the foot. In extreme cases, numbness and muscle weakness go along with the pain.

  • Intervertebral disc degeneration

This condition is most common in elderly people. This happens when the rubbery discs that act as shock absorbers of the spinal column to cushion the bone and support movement start to weaken and lose their padding ability.

  • Spondylolisthesis

This condition exists when a nerve is pinched out of the spinal column due to a vertebra in the lower spine slipping out of position.

  • Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a skeletal irregularity characterized by a sideways curvature of the spine. The spine tends to start curving sideways during the growth stage of a person. It doesn’t cause pain until the person reaches middle age. Most scoliosis is caused by conditions like cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy.

  • Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition when the spinal column narrows due to a compression of the spinal canal containing the spinal cord and nerve roots. This then leads to pain, weakness, numbness or cramping.

Other Causes of Back Pain

Back pain is not only caused by the structural problems of the back. At times, it’s also caused by some conditions such as:

  • lower back kidney painKidney problems

One of the most common symptoms of kidney stones or kidney infection is back pain. Though the back isn’t affected by these kidney issues, the pain can register as lower back pain.

  • Lifestyle

Being sedentary for long periods can also lead to low back pain. If you frequently do the activities below, it might be time to reconsider to avoid suffering from low back pain.

    • Poor posture or straining the neck forward during computer use
    • Coughing or sneezing
    • Excessive stretching
    • Improper bending or bending for longer periods
    • Frequent lifting of heavy objects
    • Sitting, standing or driving for long periods
    • Sleeping on hard surfaces


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