What causes back pain?

Updated at: Sep 03, 2015
What causes back pain?

Strain in muscles or ligaments caused by lifting heavy weights may result in back pain. Structural problems of the disk or spine may also cause this ailment.

Dr Poonam Sachdev
PainWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Jul 13, 2011

The human back is a complex structure that has bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and disks. You can have back pain due to problem or disease of any of these component parts. At times there is no specific cause for back pain. Read to know some of the causes of back pain.

Causes of back pain

Strains: This is the commonest cause and back pain due to strain can occur due to:

  • Strain in muscles and/or ligaments.
  • Lifting heavy weights.
  • Sudden awkward/uncomfortable movement or posture.

Back pain can be caused due to muscle spasm or there may be muscle spasm along with back pain.

Structural problems: Sometime back pain may be caused due to by structural problems of the disk or spine.

  • Bulging or ruptured disks: Disks are cartilage-like pads found in between the vertebrae of the spine (vertebrae are the structures which form the spine) and they act as cushions. The soft material present inside the disk may bulge out of place or rupture. This can press on a nerve and cause pain. But many people with bulging or herniated disks do not have pain from the condition.
  • Sciatica: If the nerve that travels down your leg gets pressed or irritated by the bulging or herniated disks it can cause sciatica (that is sharp, shooting pain that extends from the buttock to back of the leg).
  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the hips joint, knees joint, joints in the hand and lower back. At times arthritis in the spine can cause narrowing of the space around the spinal cord that is spinal stenosis. This can compress or irritate the nerves and cause back pain (the pain can extend to the legs as well).
  • Skeletal irregularities: People with deformity of the spine can have back pain. Exaggeration of the natural curves in your spine can make your upper back look abnormally rounded or it can make your lower back arch excessively. Scoliosis (that is curving of the spine to the side) can also cause back pain.
  • Osteoporosis: Decrease of the bone density can make your bone porous and brittle and cause compression fractures of your spine's vertebrae.

Rare but serious conditions: Some people can have back pain due to some rare and serious conditions such as cauda equina syndrome, cancer in the spine or infection of the spine.

These are some of the causes of back pain. If you have back pain that does not improve in a few days or seems to be worsening consult your doctor to know the cause of your pain. Your doctor may recommend tests and will treat you based on the cause of pain.



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