Here are 8 Reasons Why You Might Have Lower Back Pain

Hello Giggles

Lower back pain is incredibly common. In fact, it’s the 5th leading reason why Americans visit the doctor. As reported by, statistics show that at least 80% of Americans will complain of some sort of back pain at least once in their lifetime. And according to internist at MCG Health Bill Rifkin, M.D., part of the reason for this is because “Our evolution wasn’t perfect.” He shares how the lumbar region, which is the second lowest region of the spine, took the brunt of the weight when humans went from walking on four legs to walking on two. 

“When you go from four to two legs, you’re putting a lot more strain on the lower back. My dog doesn’t get back pain! So for us, the lower back is a vulnerable spot in our bodies just by the mechanics of it,” he explains.

Almost every single thing we do, and the way we move, can affect our lower back health. From lifting bags off the floor, to the way we sit, bending over to tie our shoes, and even how we sleep, these all have an effect on our lower backs. While we might not think much of it, simply moving from a sitting to standing position uses the various muscles, tendons and ligaments that need to work together to stabilize and protect the spine, which happens to be made out of 24 small bones called vertebrae that are separated by gel-like cushions otherwise called discs. So if even one little portion is not in its proper place or is slightly misaligned, a number of issues can occur. These include numbing, stiffness, aches, and even the inability to do any normal, day-to-day activities all due to back aches and pains.

Aside from more easily treatable issues that cause lower back pain, there are also serious conditions and illnesses that could be causing it. The problem is that with so many possible triggers to lower back pain, identifying the real reason behind it is both tricky and necessary, especially when the pain does not heal on its own. Unfortunately, people dealing with chronic cases normally need more attention, care and therapy. 

With the help of MCG Health, ‘a company that researches and writes evidence-based, data-driven guidelines for countless health conditions to help patients and physicians work together to develop individualized care plans,’ they have identified common and rare causes for back pain and how patients should seek treatment. 


4 Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

1. Poor Posture

Poor posture can be a problem as it can cause lower back pain or it can make any existing back pain a bigger issue. Although most people think that poor posture occurs when slouching at your desk or slumping over while sitting down, there are actually a number of things that can be classified this way. From leaning on a single leg while standing, to walking with your butt out causing an arch to form in your lower back, there are many reasons for bad posture. Although doing it once in a while isn’t a problem, if you happen to maintain these types of positions for long periods of time, they can create unnecessary strain to the ligaments and muscles around the lumbar spine, causing unwanted pain. 

2. Sedentary Lifestyles

Unfortunately, many people are forced to spend many hours of the day sitting down because of their jobs, which leads to a sedentary lifestyle. When this happens, it also increases a person’s “risk of chronic lower back pain, disability, and mortality,” according to pediatrician and internist Stacey Popko, M.D., who oversees the guideline development for ambulatory care at MCG Health. 

“There is a lot of interest in better understanding the effects of ‘sedentary behavior’ in medicine. And there is not yet clear evidence about what role sedentary behavior plays in chronic low back pain,” she adds. 

A few exercise physiologists have shared that it could be due to the muscles being ‘activated (or deactivated) when we are sitting.’ They suggest taking stand breaks hourly, or better yet, short walks when possible in order to give some relief to their backs and any pain they might have.  

3. Muscle Fatigue

According to Dr. Popko, there are some instances, back pain isn’t because of a sedentary lifestyle or a lack of activity, but moreover, the type of activity that they do on a regular basis. “We see a lot of back pain is related to athletics and some of the jobs that people do,” says Dr. Popko. 

This could be due to those that have jobs that require them to lift heavy items. When the muscles are fatigued or used over and over again without enough rest in between, they muscles may not work as efficiently as they should. This could cause potential injury, especially for those that have to play sports that puts ‘a lot of torque on the spine.’  

4. Sudden Muscle or Ligament Strain

People hurt their backs all the time, whether it’s from exercise, moving heavy objects like furniture, or from constant overuse. Many times, improper form when doing certain activities is what causes most people to tweak or hurt their muscles or ligaments in the back and spine, especially when someone lacks muscle tone and strength.

4 Rare Causes of Lower Back Pain

5. Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a medical condition that causes one’s spine to curve in an abnormal way. Sadly, the cause of scoliosis isn’t always known, there are times that it can cause lower back pain. 

6. Bulging or Herniated Disc

There are a number of reasons for a bulging or herniated disc, from overuse, to overall wear and tear, to traumatic injury. Any of these issues can cause the discs to protrude or rupture, which can be extremely painful. While there are a number of ways the pain is felt, most people say that they feel shooting pain radiating down their legs. 

According to MCG’s Dr. Rifkin, thankfully bulging discs don’t always mean surgery for patients, no matter how scary they injury sounds. “Most back pain is not about [herniated discs]. If you did spine MRIs on 100 patients over the age of 50, many would have disc problems, but no pain. So it is important to realize that surgery is only indicated for a relatively small proportion of back pain.”  

7. Autoimmune Diseases and Degenerative Spine Conditions

Autoimmune diseases, and degenerative spine conditions like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, can cause lower back pain. Osteoporosis is a medical condition that makes the bones brittle and weak. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is a joint disease that progressively breaks down the protective cartilage that surrounds the bones. Dr. Rifkin shares, “There is also back pain that’s part of different autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.”   

8. Cancer

There are times when lower back pain is due to a tumor growth in the lumbar area. Dr. Rifkin explains, “If you have a history of organ cancer – like breast cancer or prostate cancer – it’s still very likely that back pain is not due metastasis, but it could be.” 

What To Do If You Have Back Pain

For those dealing with lower back aches and pains, chances are they will heal on their own. According to Dr. Popko, “Most people who have acute low back pain are actually going to get better on their own in six weeks or less.” 

As for Dr. Rifkin, he shares, “Try the usual things: heat, if that helps, ice, if that helps – and classes of [anti-inflammatory] drugs like ibuprofen are very, very useful.” 

Without aggravating the pain with too much movement, you should still try to be as active as possible. Many times, bed rest can actually make the back pain worse because it weakens the spine and causes it to lose tone. But the doctors also warn that if the pain doesn’t get better within 6 to 12 weeks, be sure to seek out professional help. Treatment will depend on the cause of the back pain. 

But before deciding to wait out the 6 to 12 week mark, be sure to truly observe what type of pain you’re dealing with, as well as what possibly caused it. If you have had serious trauma associated with an accident or a major fall, if you have had cancer or a history of the disease, if you suffer from incontinence or the inability to hold your stool, fevers that are associated with the back pain, loss of sensation in the groin area, or possible neurological dysfunctions like numbing or weakness in the legs, see a doctor immediately or seek emergency care. Like with any other medical condition, getting the proper diagnosis will always be the best choice.