Lower back pain can make it hard to sit, stand, walk or sleep comfortably. It can affect people of all ages and is one of the most frequent reasons that people visit their GP. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says: “Low back pain is the leading cause of activity limitation and work absence throughout much of the world.”

How lower back pain feels varies from person to person. To some, it will be a dull ache, a painful stiffness or a sharp stabbing sensation. It can be a constant pain, or it could only appear when you stand, walk or bend. Understanding the likely cause of lower back pain will help you to manage or not cure it. You can also find ways to stop it from worsening or returning.

Why are some people prone to back pain?

There are risk factors that increase the chances you will experience severe or long-term pain in your lower back. These include being above your ideal weight in medical terms. Tall people are prone to hunching more, or you could be genetically more likely to develop spine issues. Your age plays a part and you will not be surprised to hear that your occupation could be significant too. Or your leisure time, if you spend long periods of time sitting down, such as gaming.

Why pain in the lower back?

You can suffer prolonged or severe stiffness, discomfort or pain anywhere along your spine. However, the lumbar region – at the rear of your abdominal – is the most likely place for problems to occur. That’s because this section of your spine works hard to support your frame and to facilitate movement. It can also be the place we bend and twist the most.

Leading causes of lower back pain – that you can self-manage

Posture is a key factor in causing lower back pain. Particularly if you sit at a computer or you have some other sedentary occupation. Perhaps you sit gaming or watching TV in a chair that doesn’t support your spine adequately. Or, you could even be holding a heavy shoulder bag or small child at a poor angle. Without realising it, you are putting considerable strain on your lower back.

The posture of your slumber can also be a cause. You may need to check if you have the correct mattress for your body shape, weight and preferred sleeping position. Another of the reasons for lower back pain is insufficient exercise, stretching out your spine to keep it healthy. This could be rectified by regular walks, taking up swimming and gentle exercise programmes such as yoga and Pilates for example.

Causes of lower back pain requiring medical help

Not all the reasons you get lower back pain are simple to self-manage. Some require professional diagnosis and robust treatment protocols. One of the leading reasons people suffer from back problems is a sports injury, regular heavy lifting, poor lifting technique or even a sudden awkward movement that jars back muscles and spinal ligaments. All of these can be painful and require medical help for a controlled recovery.

The causes of lower back pain that need a professional diagnosis also include a slipped disc (sometimes referred to as a prolapsed disc) which involves cartilage pressing on your spinal nerves. You may also have an inflamed nerve condition called sciatica. Lower back pain could be an indication that you are arthritis or osteoporosis.

To find the reason for your lower back pain, your medical professional will explore the other relevant symptoms and signs, such as numbness or tingling sensations. They can then help you to plan pain management, exercise programmes, improved posture and other ways to treat lower back pain. They can also guide you on preventative measures to help avoid a repeat of this debilitating condition.

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