Causes of back pain The human back is composed of a complex structure of muscles, ligaments, tendons, disks and bones – the segments of our spine are cushioned with cartilage-like pads. Problems with any of these components can lead to back pain. In some cases of back pain, its cause is never found.
Causes of muscle tension
- Strained muscles
- Strained ligaments
- Lifting something improperly
- Lifting something that is too heavy
- The result of an abrupt and awkward movement
- A muscle spasm
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The following structural problems may also result in back pain:
- Ruptured disks – each vertebra in our spine is cushioned by disks. If the disk ruptures there will be more pressure on a nerve, resulting in back pain.
- Bulging disks – in much the same way as ruptured disks, a bulging disk can result in more pressure on a nerve.
- Sciatica – a sharp and shooting pain that travels through the buttock and down the back of the leg, caused by a bulging or herniated disk pressing on a nerve.
- Arthritis – patients with osteoarthritis commonly experience problems with the joints in the hips, lower back, knees and hands. In some cases spinal stenosis can develop – the space around the spinal cord narrows.
- Abnormal curvature of the spine – if the spine curves in an unusual way the patient is more likely to experience back pain. An example is scoliosis, when the spine curves to the side.
- Osteoporosis – bones, including the vertebrae of the spine, become brittle and porous, making compression fractures more likely.
See also: “Treatments For Back Pain“
Other causes of back pain
- Cauda equina syndrome – the cauda equine is a bundle of spinal nerve roots that arise from the lower end of the spinal cord. People with cauda equine syndrome feel a dull pain in the lower back and upper buttocks, as well as analgesia (lack of feeling) in the buttocks, genitalia and thigh. There are sometimes bowel and bladder function disturbances.
- Cancer of the spine – a tumor located on the spine may press against a nerve, resulting in back pain.
- Infection of the spine – if the patient has an elevated body temperature (fever) as well as a tender warm area on the back, it could be caused by an infection of the spine.
- Other infections – pelvic inflammatory disease (females), bladder or kidney infections.
- Sleep disorders – individuals with sleep disorders are more likely to experience back pain, compared to others.
- Shingles – an infection that can affect the nerves.
- Bad mattress – if a mattress does not support specific parts of the body and keep the spine straight, there is a greater risk of developing back pain.
Everyday activities or poor posture
Back pain can also be the result of some everyday activity or poor posture. Examples include:
- Bending awkwardly
- Pushing something
- Pulling something
- Carrying something
- Lifting something
- Standing for long periods
- Bending down for long periods
- Muscle tension
- Sitting in a hunched position for long periods (e.g. when driving)
- Long driving sessions without a break (even when not hunched).