Last updated date: 10-Mar-2024

Originally Written in English

Low Back Pain: What does actually cause it?

    Lower back pain is one of the most common conditions among us. It is very probable that any of us has experienced at least once a backache. It is considered that 4 out 5 persons are affected by lower back pain at some point in their lives.

    According to the American Chiropractic Association, back pain is the main reason why Americans call sick at work. It is thought that a 50% of all the working Americans encounter back pain symptoms annually. Therefore, on the account of back pain, 265 million work days are lost within a year, meaning that each American worker needs annually two days off to deal with the back pain.

    Furthermore, back pain is the third reason, after skin conditions, osteoarthritis or joint disorders, for which patients visit the doctor. Even though most of the back pain cases are not stimulated by serious conditions such as cancer or an infection, but by mechanical failures, such as a sudden move, the back pain generates health care costs of about 50 billion dollars annually. Adding to this calculus the costs of decreased productivity and the lost wages, the final sum rounds up to 100 billion dollars per year.

    The lower back pain could be acute or chronic. If it is acute, then the symptoms will improve in a couple of days. In case the lower back pain is chronic, then the symptoms will persist at least 3 months and the condition might be more serious than what you have expected.

    Sometimes, the pain can start gradually, while other times the pain can ignite suddenly at full potential. Usually, the lower back pain occurs after an injury or after lifting and handling very heavy objects, without being too careful to the moves you make. You might even here a “pop” when the injury happens. One sudden move can be all it needs for a couple of unpleasant days. In other cases, you might not even notice what caused the pain.

    The pain could be cutting or dull and sore. It can also radiate from its original spot to the bottom or even to the legs. The pain might feel more intense while being active than while resting.

    As our bodies are in a perpetual change, the fluid that lubricates in between the vertebrae with the disks reduces in time. So, the friction between the disks and the vertebrae grows considerably and could become truly uncomfortable. Also, with age it also disappears a piece of the muscle mass, which leaves the body more prone to injury. This is why lower back pain is normally common between persons that are at least over 30 years old.

    The lower back pain could be also stimulated by more serious conditions, such as:

    • Arthritis;
    • Sciatica;
    • A kidney infection or a kidney stone;
    • A herniated or even broken disk;
    • An infection of the spine.


    Depending on the real cause, the lower back pain also has other symptoms that are strongly related to:

    • Stiffness. You might feel stiff, as the pain is dull and bothersome. It could make you feel that your motion is limited, while easy moves take longer than the normal.
    • Muscle spasms. The muscles could be uncontrollably contracted after intense exercising or an injury. Therefore, muscle spasms could stimulate very intense levels of pain. The muscle spasms could also make you unable to stand.
    • Posture problems. Due to pain, you might not be able to stand up correctly. When trying to stand or to walk, the pain might force you to use unusual positions, such as standing up a little bent or “crooked”.


    Lower back pain on right side

    Lower back pain on the right side of the body could be stimulated by many factors. They could be related to physical injuries or they can be related to infections and inflammations. The most common reasons for lower back pain on the right side are:

    • Strains. The strains along with sprains are considered to be the most notorious reason of lower back pain. They occur after performing a sudden move or after lifting heavy objects without using proper lifting techniques. The lower back pain on the right side that is due to strains and sprains could be accompanied by stiffness, limited motion and muscle spasms. The pain could also radiate to the buttocks. In case of a mild injury, you can treat it at home with rest, ice packs and over-the-counter medicines.
    • Spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is a serious condition that consists of pressure on the spinal cord. It could lead to pain in the lower back and legs. It is normally treated with anti-inflammatory medicines and physical therapy. The in case of increased severity, surgical intervention is highly recommended.
    • Appendicitis. Appendicitis is an inflammation of the appendix which needs urgent medical care. The pain could radiate to the right side of the lower back.
    • Kidney infection or kidney stone. If the kidneys suffer from an infection or they contain a stone, you will feel the pain in the lower back. Along with this acute pain, if your kidneys are affected, you will also encounter other symptoms such as fever and chills or nausea and even vomiting.
    • Ulcerative colitis. This condition represents the inflammation of the intestine’s or colon’s lining. As the symptoms usually include abdominal discomfort and cramping, the pain could also radiate to the lower back.


    Lower back pain left side

    The lower back pain on the left side of the body normally has the same causes as the lower back pain on the right side, with the exception of appendicitis, that induces pain only on the right side.

    Endometriosis is a condition that consists of tissue, that is very alike to the lining of the womb, growing outside the uterus. The pain that it produces could radiate to the left side of the lower back and it is the only cause of pain in the left part of the lower back that does not induce pain in the right side of the lower back pain as well.


    Lower back pain causes

    The causes of the lower back pain could vary. Even if reoccurrence is one of the main aspects of this condition, most of those who are affected by this pain recover quickly. It is less known for the lower back pain to become chronic and to leave the patients disabled. The intensity and duration truly depend on the real causes of the pain. Some of the conditions that could spark the lower back pain are:

    • Strains. Each session of intense exercising could result in the stretching or tearing the back’s muscles and ligaments. This translates into pain that could be reduced with rest and physical therapy. This type of back pain should be over in 1 or 2 days.
    • Herniated disk. The disks that are situated between the vertebrae have the purpose of absorbing the shocks and to prevent the rubbing of the vertebrae with each other. These disks could be considered some sort of cushion. Due to lifting heavy objects or due to different shocks, the disks could get their position modified. Therefore, a disk that has slipped from its normal position will produce a significative and uncomfortable pain as the cartilage that surrounds it applies pressure to the spinal cords and the nerve roots. This type of back pain normally lasts more than 3 days.
    • Abnormal configuration of the spine. Lordosis, scoliosis and kyphosis are all conditions that could significantly affect the form of your spine. Normally, these 3 conditions are noticed and diagnosed during your youth days. Beside the fact that these 3 conditions have an impact on the form of your spine, they can also stimulate intense back pain. This is due to the fact that the abnormal form of the spine puts pressure on the muscles, tendons, ligaments or vertebrae.
    • Spinal stenosis. This condition consists of pressure on the spinal cord and on the spinal nerves due to alteration of the disks. Beside lower back pain, spinal stenosis could get you symptoms like numbness, cramps or make you feel completely weak. If you suffer from spinal stenosis, you could notice that the symptoms vary when standing or walking, depending on how the pressure is applied to the spinal cord.
    • Sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is practically connecting the spine to the legs. Any herniated disk from the lower back could put pressure on this nerve. The result is a deep pain in the feet and legs that can feel seriously prickly.


    Beside the conditions that are specific to the back, there are other conditions that could stimulate the pain in this area, such as:

    • Arthritis;
    • Fibromyalgia;
    • Spondylitis;
    • Endometriosis;
    • Kidney and other urinary problems;
    • Ovarian cysts;
    • Cancer.

    One very interesting fact about the lower back pain is that it actually can be influenced by the weather. The barometric pressure and the temperature can ignite the pain in the arthritic joints and the spine, as well. Moreover, both the muscles and the joints are sensitive to environmental changes, therefore they can become stiffer or prone to get injured.


    Risk factors

    Risk factors

    The back is a very complex part of the human body and there are various factors that could spark the risk of developing lower back pain, such as:

    • Age. The older you are, the more prone you are to develop lower back pain. The reason is that the disks that are positioned between the vertebrae are not getting well lubricated anymore. These disks have the purpose of absorbing the shocks and of preventing the vertebrae to rub against each other. The stiffness that comes with age, could make the disks start to rub with the vertebrae and the pain will be stimulated right away.
    • Occupation. In case your job includes lifting heavy objects or a lot of bending, you might be at risk. Always be very careful in regards to the moves you make.
    • Overall health status. The healthier your life is, the healthier your body and vice versa. If you keep an unbalanced diet and you do not exercise at all, you might be at risk to develop a lower back pain. As the muscles are not regularly trained, they tend to lose their capacity and they will no longer be able to sustain the bones. As the muscles get weaker, the risk of developing a lower back pain grows significantly. Therefore, it is best to avoid a sedentary lifestyle, that also includes smoking and excessive alcohol consume.
    • Other conditions and predispositions. You might have an increased risk of developing a lower back pain if you already have other conditions of the back, such as scoliosis, for example, or you have family history of conditions that affect the spine and the back. Being overweight is another condition that could substantially rise the risk of lower back pain, as the pressure of the weight is directly applied to the bones.
    • Psychological factors. Depression or anxiety can cause lower back pain.


    Lower back pain on period

    The symptoms of menstruation could vary from woman to woman. For some of the women, the period is painful, while for others is easier to pass through.

    The women who are having painful menstruations are also very familiar with the lower back pain, as this is a frequent symptom. There are more causes for lower back pain, but the main one is the premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

    The premenstrual syndrome is a condition that usually appears within 7 days before the period starts and stops when the period begins. The symptoms of PMS consist of abdominal cramps, bloating, headaches, constipation or diarrhea. The lower back pain is thought to occur due to intensified inflammation.

    The premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a condition that is alike PMS, but all the characteristics are amplified. And the more increased the inflammation, the more intense the lower back pain.

    Dysmenorrhea is another condition that is related to menstruation, but it is considered to be very painful. During the menstruation, the pain is very severe. The usual symptoms of dysmenorrhea include lower back pain, abdominal cramping, nausea and vomiting and headaches. The cramps are so profound that they could radiate throughout the whole back. Some of the persons who suffer of dysmenorrhea report that they feel the pain either spasmodic, shooting, piercing or stabbing.


    Lower back pain during pregnancy

    During pregnancy, as the ligaments become softer, and more pressure is applied on the joints of the back and pelvis, it is a common thing to develop a lower back pain. Speak to your healthcare professional who can recommend belly support bands that could relieve the stress on your lower back.

    In case the pain is very intense, you need to visit a specialist as soon as possible, as the cause of your lower back pain might actually be a more serious condition.


    Diagnosis of the lower back pain

    Once you decide to visit your health care provider, you will need to discuss openly about the symptoms and to undergo a physical exam. The specialist will need to determine the exact cause of the pain and to establish the severity of the situation, in order to offer you an effective treatment. To do so, the specialist needs to learn if there are any broken bones or damaged tissues, by checking through imaging the vertebrae, the disks, the muscles, the ligaments and the tendons that surround the affected area.

    The tests that the specialist will perform to determine the real cause of the pain are:

    • A X-ray of the spine. Radiation is used to display the images of the bones.
    • A MRI. The image of the bones, muscles or other tissue is created using magnetic and radio waves.
    • A CT scan. Using X-rays technology and a computer software, the image of the bones, muscles and tissue will be recreated in 3D.
    • EMG (Electromyography) is another test that can be used to determine if there is any damage of the nerves.

    Moreover, the specialist could also need to take a sample of your urine or blood, in order to detect genetic markers for conditions that stimulate back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis. Also, the urine test could indicate if there is any stone in your kidneys, which could be another reason for lower back pain.


    Lower back pain treatment

    Lower back pain treatment

    The treatment for lower back pain depends totally on the actual cause. In case there is a serious condition that stimulates the back pain, then the specialist will prescribe you a treatment made specially for it. If the treatment is effective, the symptoms will improve.

    In case the lower back pain is the result of a more common and not severe condition, then it should be easy to treat it at home.

    The lower back pain could be easily treated at home with rest. While resting, it is highly recommended to apply an iced package on the spot of pain. Also, you can take over-the-counter pain killers. If you can do some soft exercises from time to time during the day, your blood circulation will considerably improve and you will be healed in no time.

    In case that your symptoms do not improve within a couple of days, while resting and taking over-the-counter medicines, the specialist will provide you with a more powerful treatment.

    This treatment might include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or other prescription medicines that are used to relieve the pain. The prescription might also include medications that are used to relax the muscles and to prevent the spasms. Depending on the severity of the situation, the specialist might add injections to the treatment. The injections are local, administered right into the spot of pain. The steroids that are injected are very effective in relieving the pain and in reducing the inflammation. The most severe situations, when the injury is profound, surgery might be needed. It is good to know that, in order to alleviate the lower back pain, it is possible to perform a minimally invasive surgery.

    The recovery process will also consist of physical therapy. This activity can offer real strength to your muscles, so they will be able to support the spine as they are supposed to. The stronger the muscles are, the less chances of an injury.



    The lower back pain is very common. About 80% of the population has to face it at some moment during a lifetime.

    The real cause of the lower back pain is truly important. In most cases, the lower back pain is a result of a strain or sprain and the affected person will fully recover in about 2 days.

    Other persons could suffer from a chronic lower back pain. This means that the actual cause of it could be represented by a degenerative illness, such as arthritis or osteoporosis. In these cases, the treatment is more complex than for the acute lower back pain. A surgical intervention might be needed, as well.

    As the lower back pain could be truly uncomfortable, you should try to prevent it. You can do so by strengthening the muscles of the back and by losing the extra weight. Anytime you need to lift a heavier object, you should use a lifting strategy. For example, lift with the legs and not with the back. Also, you should keep the object close to the body and you should not twist the torso in the meanwhile.

    One overall, no matter how profound is the lower back pain or its cause, it can eventually be treated with the right diagnosis and treatment plan.