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Published on: 18-Apr-2023

Back pain affects many people worldwide, preventing them from living the active lifestyle they were previously used to, and in some cases, stopping them from working for long periods. Back pain can affect anyone of any age and is caused by any number of things, some preventable, some not. Let’s take a look at the top causes of back pain, as well as effective treatments.

Living with Back Pain – Symptoms and Impact

Living with back pain can be difficult and frustrating. It can affect your ability to perform everyday tasks and activities, and can also have a significant impact on your quality of life. 

Symptoms of back pain can range from mild to severe and can include things like aching, stiffness, and difficulty moving. In severe cases, back pain can also cause difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, and depression.

Living with back pain can be challenging, but there are ways to manage it and improve your quality of life. Regular exercise and stretching, maintaining good posture, and learning techniques to manage stress can all be helpful in managing back pain. It is also important to pay attention to your body and listen to its needs, and to seek medical attention if your back pain is severe or does not improve with home remedies.

What are the top causes of back pain?

Here are the top causes of back pain, ranging from common injuries to conditions that are developed over time.

Pulled Muscles/ Tendons

A person can pull a muscle or tendon when lifting overly heavy objects, or by lifting an object incorrectly (always lift with your legs and not your back muscles). A pull, strain, or sprain can make it very difficult to perform certain movements while resulting in tightness in the back, spasms, as well as causing ongoing discomfort. 

Herniated or Ruptured Discs

The discs in your back are cushioned tissue that sits in between your vertebrae, acting as shock absorbers as you go about your day-to-day activities. Sometimes, these discs can move out of place, or the tissue can bulge out of their protective layer which can be very painful. As well as causing back pain, a herniated or ruptured disc can also impact a person’s mobility. This type of injury is more common among older people and sportspeople.


Inflammation is a response from a person’s immune system but can still cause a lot of discomfort, with the common symptoms being heat and pain in the affected area. An injury, disease, or spinal condition can cause inflammation to stick around for a prolonged period of time which can become very sore.  


Spinal stenosis is a condition that is caused by the narrowing of the spinal column, applying pressure to the spinal cord and surrounding nerves that connect the muscles. It can occur anywhere along the spine but is most common in the lower back (lumbar region). This condition causes pain and can prevent a person from easily performing movements such as bending down or stretching. 


Arthritis is a condition that affects over 58 million people in the US, resulting in persistent pain and stiffness. It is a form of inflammation that can affect joints in any part of the body, including the back. As well as pain and stiffness, a person suffering from arthritis may also notice swelling in the affected area.


Sciatica affects the sciatic nerve that travels from the lower back, through the buttocks, and down each leg. It is often caused by a herniated disc or a bone spur that places pressure on this nerve, causing significant discomfort and an inability to move freely. 


Osteoporosis is a disease that causes the reduction of bone mass, particularly in the hips, wrists, and spine. This, of course, weakens the bones in the affected area and increases the likelihood of breaks and fractures. A spinal fracture can be excruciating and may require a person to wear a back brace for several months. 


Spondylolisthesis relates to one of the vertebrae in your spine slipping out of place and coming into contact with the surrounding nerves. Like stenosis, this is most common in the lumbar region of the back but can occur anywhere along the spine. 


Excess stress on your spine can result in temporary or even persistent pain. Things like maintaining poor posture, frequently lifting heavy objects, or exercising incorrectly can all place additional pressure on your spine. However, this type of injury can usually be rectified with rest and gentle exercise.

The causes of back pain are of course not limited to the above, therefore, if you have experienced discomfort in your back for around a week then it is advised to consult your doctor who can determine the problem. 

Treating Back Pain

Fortunately, there are several ways to help treat back pain, including both self-care and medical treatments.

Self-Care Back Pain Treatments

  • Heat packs or ice packs were applied for around 20 minutes
  • Over-the-counter medication
  • Remain active with gentle movements around the house
  • Avoid sitting or lying down for long periods
  • Low-impact exercises such as walking

Medical Back Pain Treatments

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
  • Topical pain relief, like creams, patches, and ointments
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Opioids
  • Antidepressants
  • Physical Therapy
  • Chiropractic care
  • Acupuncture
  • Cortisone Injections

Curing Back Pain

Surgery can offer long-term relief from back pain and in some cases, cure the condition or issue altogether but surgery is not always a guaranteed remedy. Decompression surgery, discectomies, laminectomies, and spinal fusion are the most common forms of back surgery, but technological advancements have provided alternatives.

Read more about the TOPS System here. A TOPS System from Premia Spine is a spinal implant device that ensures a person can maintain full motion in their spine, unlike spinal fusion surgery. Spinal fusion uses screws, rods, and bone grafts to fuse the vertebrae together, preventing many natural movements that can stop a person from living an everyday life. 

The post What Are the Top Causes of Back Pain? appeared first on Sports Medicine Weekly By Dr. Brian Cole.