Lower Back Pain Causes

Millions of people around the world suffer from back pain.

Vulnerability of the back comes about because of the many structures that make up the bulk of this part of the body.

Apart from injuries due to accidents and impact, medical conditions form another major cause of back pain.

What causes lower back pain?

Let’s look at the top conditions that cause chronic back pain.

Lumbar Herniated Disc

A herniated disc can occur anywhere along your spine, but it occurs most often in the lower back.

Sometimes also called a ruptured, protruding or bulging disc, it represents one of the most common causes of low back pain. Although the condition can be very painful, many people feel much better with just a few sessions of nonsurgical treatment. A disc herniates when the jelly-like nucleus pushes out against the disc cover due to a sudden injury or wear and tear. The pressure that is exerted against this disc is what leads to lower back pain. A herniated disc is often a result of natural wear and tear of the spine, a process that is referred to as disc degeneration.

As you age, the water content in the disc decreases and they lose the flexibility this makes the disc more prone to herniations. A fall or sudden traumatic event can cause herniations.

Spinal Compression Fracture

Many people think that back pain comes just because of progressing age, but this isn’t the case.

At times, tiny cracks occur in the bones that are called vertebrae, which are major components of the spine. When these hairline fractures add up, they cause the vertebra to collapse, a phenomenon termed spinal compression fracture. These fractures are more common in women over 50 years that have been through menopause.

When bones become brittle, they aren’t strong enough to support the spine and the weight of your upper body in all everyday activities. Any action – lifting an object, slipping or missing a step can put the spinal bones at risk of fracture. At times a simple action such as coughing or sneezing can lead to a fracture.

Degenerative Disc Disease

This refers to the condition that occurs when normal changes occur in the spinal discs, which in turn leads to pain. Spinal discs have been made to act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae of the spine. They make sure your back remains flexible so that you are able to bend, lift and even twist without any pain. Due to disease or the normal aging process, the discs show signs of wear and tear. This means the movement of the discs against each other becomes painful and hard, and the more the friction the more the pain.

Painful disc degeneration occurs in the lower back as well as the neck. The pain usually originates from the damaged disc, and the level of pain matches with the level of disc degeneration. Disc degeneration makes your spine vulnerable to herniations. Additionally, when the degeneration is severe, you are at risk of spinal stenosis.

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Spinal Stenosis

This refers to the narrowing of the spaces within the spine, which then puts pressure on the nerves which travel through your spine.

This condition is common in the neck and the lower back. The symptoms of this condition vary, with some people failing to have any symptoms, while others experience low back pain and muscle weakness. Spinal stenosis occurs due to wear and tear that occurs due to osteoarthritis.

In severe cases of this condition, surgery might be the only solution in order to create space for the nerves or spinal cord. Spinal stenosis comes in two forms: cervical and lumbar stenosis.

Lumbar stenosis is the most common form of this condition.


Apart from injuries, medical conditions also lead to back pain, both lower and upper.

A visit to your doctor will point out the cause and come up with the best approach to treatment.

References & Further Reading

1. Herniated Disk in the Lower Back
2. Fractures of the Thoracic and Lumbar Spine
3. The Lumbar Invertabral Disc Chapter 13.pdf
4. SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS: Spinal Stenosis

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