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What's causing your lower back pain?

Updated on September 30, 2012

Strengthening muscles

Strengthening lower back

Back pain most often occurs in the lower back region. Lower back pain is relatively common and according to (NHS 2012) 8 out of 10 people will experience it at some point during their lifetime. Usually, it is not serious and will resolve itself with time, regular activity and possibly medication. If back pain occurs for more than 12 weeks it is referred to as ‘chronic back pain’

Most back pain is non specific which means that it is caused by a weakness or minor sprain in the area and may not always be identified. Specific back pain may be associated with more rare conditions such as fracture or cancer.

Lower back pain causes:

The lower back has the hard task of supporting the upper body and is made up of a complex structure of bones, muscles, nerves and joints. When any of these are damaged by sprains, minor injury of pinched nerves you may experience some type of pain in your lower back.

You can damage your back in any of the following ways, experiencing immediate pain or a gradual build up over a longer period of time.

  • Lifting, pushing, carrying or pulling incorrectly – if you are twisting whilst performing one of this movements you will be more likely to occur an injury.
  • Bending awkwardly – bending and leaning to pick something up
  • Posture – poor posture over a long time will increase your risk of back pain. Slouching in chairs, standing incorrectly or bending down for long periods. Driving for long periods without resting.
  • Twisting – any twisting movement
  • Over stretching – especially if twisting or lifting, pulling or pushing
  • Over use – some injuries to the lower back may be caused by over-use associated with work or sport.
  • Pregnancy – carrying the extra weight of a baby plus the hormones that relax the muscles can increae the risk of lower back injury/pain.
  • Overweight – puts extra pressure on the spine and supporting structures of the lower back.
  • Steroids – long-term use of steroids can weaken the density of the bones and make a person more pre-disposed to back injury.
  • Stress and anxiety – may cause an individual to tense the muscles which may result in back pain.
  • Sciatic pain – mild to severe pain that may radiate from the buttocks down the legs to the feet. Caused when the sciatic nerve is irritated or compressed

Lower back pain symptoms:

Pain is very subjective and will vary from one person to the other. Any discomfort, sharp, throbbing, tension, dull aching may be described as pain.

You may notice that you experience pain when undertaken certain movements or standing.

Back pain can be experienced from the neck to the hips and depending on the cause may be felt in more than one region.

Lower back pain relief;

It will depend on the nature and cause of your back pain as to what lower back pain relief is most suitable for you.

Medication – you may be able to buy ‘over the counter’ medication such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. If you are taking any other medication it’s best to check with the pharmacist or your doctor first.

Heat/Ice packs – can work well and provide some relief to the area until it heals.

Exercise – the advice for back pain used to be to rest. This has now changed and patients are usually recommended to continue with their normal activities. This keeps the supporting muscles strong and may help with the healing process. Your health care professional may refer you for physiotherapy, osteopathy, acupuncture, yoga or pilates. Many exercises will strengthen the muscles in the area and provide good ‘core strength’ to avoid injury and pain.

Surgery – this is usually the last option for back pain and your doctor will have refer you on for tests and to specialists before this decision is made.

When to contact your Doctor:

If your lower back pain is experienced with any of the following symptoms:

High fever – 38.C or above

Weight loss


Pain elsewhere in the body

Loss of bladder or bowel function

Numbness around the genital area

Constant pain not relieved by lying or rest

Lower back pain prevention;

Footwear – good supportive shoes will help. Flat shoes with some cushioning will reduce the impact on the back when walking and standing.

Posture – sit upright. You may benefit from placing a small cushion at the small of your back.

Weight – if you are overweight you will be putting extra pressure on the supportive structures of the back. Losing weight will not only help reduce pain but will improve your overall health and increase your energy levels.

Exercise – keep moving. Even if you have back pain try an resume your normal activities. Participating in exercise such as swimming, yoga, pilates will increase your core strength and reduce your risk of lower back pain and injury.


Note: The guide is not meant to be fully comprehensive and is meant for information only. The author makes no guarantee, either expressed or implied, regarding the efficacy or use for any reason of the information contained within this article.


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