What causes lower back pain?

Most people will have lower back pain sometime in their life. The lower part of the back supports the weight of the entire upper body. Therefore, it is no wonder that the lower back is extremely susceptible to injury and one of the many reasons why it is so important to keep it healthy!

Acute or short-term low back pain can last from a few days to a few weeks. Acute back pain is often the result of trauma such as an injury or a sudden jolt. A sports injury or "overdoing it" while working around the house or yard are common causes. The risk of acute injury is most common between the ages of 30 and 50, usually because people try to do too much after being sedentary. As people age, the risk of low back pain from disc disease and spinal degeneration increases.

The lower back, or lumbar region consists of 5 lumbar vertebrae which are separated by round, spongy pads of cartilage called intervertebral discs. These allow for flexibility in the lower back and act like shock absorbers in your spine as the body moves. Bands of tissue known as ligaments and tendons hold the vertebrae in place and attach the muscles to the spinal column. As people age, the discs lose fluid and flexibility, which decreases their ability to cushion the vertebrae. Each level of the spine is connected to its neighboring level by a facet joint. Each of these facet joints is supplied by spinal nerves. The sacroiliac joint lies next to the spine and connects the sacrum (bottom of the spine) with the pelvis (hip area). You may feel symptoms of muscle tension to severe pain from any of these areas of the lower back.

Pain can result when someone overstretches or lifts something that is too heavy. If the spine becomes overly strained, one of the discs may bulge outward, or even herniate (rupture). This may put pressure on one of the nerves rooted to the spinal cord, resulting in back pain.

Back pain can also be due to conditions such as arthritis, degeneration, herniated discs, or bone spurs. Symptoms may range from an ache to shooting or stabbing pain. You may have limited flexibility or an inability to stand straight. Occasionally, pain felt across the back may radiate to elsewhere in the body, like the buttock, hip, groin, upper thighs, or down the leg. Often this pain is due to irritation or pressure on nerve roots (radiculopathy) resulting from a spinal condition. Sitting, standing, or bending backwards can worsen the pain.