Common Causes of Back Pain

August 21, 2018

Back pain can be a nagging issue, yet it’s far more complex than most realize. The cause of your pain may come from a number of places and can have different long-term effects if left untreated. One such instance is a lumbar strain, caused by a muscular issue such as a strain or irritation to the muscles. It does not cause radiating pain and usually resolves with rest or anti-inflammatories in a few days.


A muscle spasm is caused by a spasm in the muscles in the lower back. It can feel like a tightness in the lower back. Sometimes spasms can be so bad that the patient is actually bent over. If it does not resolve on its own in a few days it’s time to see your doctor. Muscle spasms can sometimes be due to another underlying problem which is why it’s best to see your doctor for this type of pain.


The spine is made up of multiple bones known as vertebra. In between those vertebra are discs which are made of cartilage and have a soft jelly-like center. On either side of each disc are nerves known as spinal nerves which traverse through the body and supply sensation and strength to whichever muscle they connect with.

When a doctor tells you that you have a disc herniation, that means that the disc has moved out of its space and is hitting the nerves which can cause shooting pain down the leg or arm. This is known as sciatica or a radiculopathy.


Pain in the spine can also be caused by arthritis. Arthritis is caused by inflammation in a joint and as the spine has multiple joints which can be irritated through either trauma or osteoarthritis, it’s a common cause of back pain. Arthritic pain is usually confined to the lower back and does not radiate as opposed to shooting or radicular pain which is usually caused by a disc herniation. Arthritic pain is also worsened when twisting or turning.


Annular tears are caused by a tear within the disc itself. This tear affects the small nerves that live inside the disc and can cause a constant dull, throbbing ache across the lower back but not generally down the legs. Pain from annular tears is usually worse with bending forward and patients can even have pain when resting.


Sacroiliitis can cause lower back pain but it is actually due to inflammation in the sacroiliac joint. This pain is usually worse when walking or crossing your legs. Another cause of back pain, spinal stenosis, is usually caused by a narrowing of the space in which the nerves lie in the spine. It can be central or foraminal. Central spinal stenosis leads to pain with walking which often improves with rest. Foraminal stenosis occurs when the space where the nerve leaves the spine is narrowed and causes pain down a particular nerve root depending on which level is affected. Discomfort can occur both at rest or when walking.


Vertebral fractures can happen in the elderly without trauma due to weakened bones. This can cause sudden severe pain. Fractures can also occur with trauma. If you’ve been experiencing back pain, it may not be as simple as a sore muscle. Make sure to visit your doctor to obtain a full diagnosis and start treating your pain correctly.