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. Strain – the most common causes of back pain are:
Lifting something in an improper manner is a common cause of back pain.
- Strained muscles
- Strained ligaments
- Lifting something improperly
- Lifting something that is too heavy
- The result of an abrupt and awkward movement
- A muscle spasm.
Structural problems – 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 orherniated 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.
Below are some 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:
We live in a world of computers. Adopting a very hunched sitting position when using computers can result in increased back and shoulder problems over time.
- 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).