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The Four Main Causes of Lower Back Pain

May 01, 2018 in Back Pain

There are a number of potential causes of lower back pain. Some are very serious, resulting from injuries or conditions like arthritis and ruptured discs. More often, the problems that are at the root of pain in your back can be caused by simple things like poor posture or repetitive motion.

Read more to discover the four most common causes of lower back pain. If you're experiencing mild lower back pain, contact a doctor and seek medical attention if the pain persists for over three months. If you're experiencing severe lower back pain, seek medical attention immediately to prevent further injury or irritation.

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The Main Causes of Lower Back Pain

Causes of
Lower Back Pain
Ailment or InjurySymptom
Muscles-Muscle strain
-Muscle sprain
Nerves-Herniated disc (slipped disc, pinched nerve)
-Degenerative disc disease
Spinal Stenosis
-Shooting pain
Joints-Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
-Loss of range of motion
-Compression fracture
-Pain that gets worse when pressure is applied

1. Causes of Lower Back Pain: Muscle Pain

The musculoskeletal system in the body relates to the interaction of the muscles with the skeletal structure in body mechanics and biology. When the muscles withstand injury or stress, this is a common cause of acute and often mild forms of lower back pain.

Muscle Strain or Sprain

A muscle strain or sprain is a form of acute lower back pain. This means that the pain often persists for less than three months and is not a result of an extended period of time, but rather, the result of a sudden or abrupt injury.

  • A strain occurs when the muscle is stretched too far and tears, damaging the muscle.
  • A sprain occurs when the muscle is over-stretched and the ligament is injured.

Both forms of injury can be a result of:

  • Accident or injury such as an motor vehicle accident, sports injury, or sudden fall.
  • Poor posture over an extended period of time.
  • Lifting heavy objects or weights.
  • Sudden movements or twisting of the back.

2. Causes of Lower Back Pain: Nerve Pain

The nervous system is a complex network of nerves and cells that carry messages from the brain and spinal cord, throughout the body. One of the signals this network carries is pain. When nerve damage occurs, a person may experience numbness or intense pain.

Lumbar Herniated Disc (Slipped Disc, Ruptured Disc, Pinched Nerve)

The lumbar discs are filled with a soft centre that can break through the thicker outer layer and begin to irritate a nearby nerve. Herniating means "to protrude though an abnormal body opening". This disc herniation causes inflammation, nerve pain in the disc wall itself, and nerve root pain.

A herniated disc is often a result of:

  • Adding stress to the back by lifting a heavy object
  • Twisting the lower back in a stressful manner

Degenerative Disc Disease

The intervertebral discs need to withstand a lot of friction, stress, and movement throughout our lives. It's natural that the discs begin to wear down with age. As the discs degenerate over time they become less hydrated with water and more prone to tearing. The discs irritate surrounding nerves and create moderate to sever pain.

Degenerative Disc Disease is a result of:

  • General wear and tear
  • Aging process and natural degeneration

Spinal Stenosis

This form of lumbar pain is caused by the narrowing of the spinal canal where the nerve roots live. The nerve roots become compressed and irritated and send pain signals to the brain.

This form of lower back pain is a result of:

  • Aging process and natural degeneration
  • Abnormal curvature of the spinal canal

3. Causes of Lower Back Pain: Joint Pain

The joints connect the bones in the body and help the skeletal system function. They allow for movement and can become worn out over time in the natural process of aging. The Sacroiliac Joints are located in the bottom of the spine and can result in various forms of back pain.

Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

The sacroiliac joint connects the bottom of the spine to each side of the pelvis. It absorbs shock between the upper body and the lower body. The sacroiliac joint can become painful if it becomes inflamed (sacroiliitis).

Sacroiliac joint dysfunction is often caused by:

  • Too much movement (hypermobility)
  • Too little movement (hypomobility)


This condition is caused by the wear and tear of the connective joints and lead to inflammation, instability, and pain. This is usually a slow and progressive form of lower back pain that can be referred to as degenerative joint disease.

This is often the result of:

  • General wear and tear
  • Aging process and natural degeneration

4. Causes of Lower Back Pain: Skeletal Pain

The skeletal system is the network of bones, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage that support and move the body. Just like any other part of the body, this system is vulnerable to injury, damage, or disease that can result in lower back pain.


Acute fractures or dislocations are prime examples of skeletal trauma. This form of lower back pain is not degenerative, but more sudden and acute. The pain is often severe and involves the need for immediate medical attention.

Trauma is often a result of:

  • Motor vehicle accident
  • A fall or sudden impact
  • Sports injury

Compression Fracture

This form of fracture happens when a bone in the cylindrical vertebra caves in on itself. This pain can be severe.

This form of lower back pain is often a result of:

  • Weak bones (in older individual, or individual with poor bone density)
  • Osteoarthritis

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