Causes of Back Pain

March 21, 2017

Causes of Back Pain

Back pain can be caused by inflammation of joints, muscles, or ligaments. Poor posture, obesity, or lifting something the wrong way can cause back pain. Pain also can develop after you sit or stand too long or when you are under physical or mental stress.

Illustration of spine

Some back pain can be caused by problems in other parts of your body. Pain in your hip or leg, for example, can make you feel back pain as well. This is called referred pain.

Pain in the lower back is very common. It can be caused by inflammation of structures in the back, such as the joints, muscles, or discs. Most often it is made worse by certain activities. It can also be affected by physical or psychological stress. Uncommonly, back pain can be caused by serious problems such as infection or other conditions your doctor can distinguish from the more common types of back pain.

Acute low back pain is also called lumbar muscle strain or backache. It is described as low back pain you've had for 6 weeks or less that does not reach below the knees. Although quite painful, it usually improves after a few days of simple treatment.

Acute sciatica is known as disc pain or radiating leg pain. Acute sciatica is described as low back pain you've had for 6 weeks or less where the pain reaches below the knee. Sciatica pain is often caused by nerve irritation from discs in the lower back.

Chronic low back pain and sciatica are conditions of long-lasting back pain. If you have pain for more than 6 weeks, more medical evaluation is needed.

Back pain is sometimes a sign of a more serious health problem, so tell your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms or conditions in addition to low back pain:

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Constant night pain

  • Fever

  • Trouble urinating or loss of bowel or bladder function (incontinence)

  • Leg weakness


March 21, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Bhattacharyya, Tim MD,Sylvia ByrdSylvia Byrd RN MBA