What Causes Back Pain?

Back pain is often caused by a simple muscle, tendon or ligament strain and not usually by a serious problem. Often back pain doesn’t have one simple cause but may be due to a range of factors, including:

• poor posture
• lack of exercise resulting in stiffening of the spine
• muscle strains or sprains.

Most back pain is identified as ‘non-specific’, meaning that there is no specific cause to the pain, or ‘mechanical’, which comes from joints, bones or soft tissues in and around the spine.

Mechanical Back Pain

This type of back pain usually changes depending on your position and it can also feel worse when you are moving, consequently limiting you on your daily activities. Mechanical back pain can develop suddenly and without any cause or gradually, possibly because of poor posture or lifting something awkwardly.  There are some medical conditions which associated with back pain, these are:

Herniated Disc

At the base of your spine you have the sacrum and the coccyx. These bones are protected by disks which absorb any impact your body when you partake in your daily activities such as walking and lifting. Injury or weakness can cause the inner part of the disk to protrude through the outer ring. This occurrence is known as a slipped, prolapsed or herniated disk and subsequently causes pain and discomfort.


This is a condition which is primarily related to aging. As you become older the bones and ligaments in your spine begin to wear away. It is a very common occurrence, having studies showing that 80 per cent of people over the age of 40 have evidence of spondylosis in their X-rays. This condition is genetic and so those who have family members with spondylosis are more likely to develop it too.


The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and extends from the spinal cord right down to the lower limb. Often when you have leg and back pain, there is nothing wrong with your leg itself, but you are most likely experiencing the pains from sciatica. This is pain you feel is due to the irritation or squeezing of the sciatic nerve. Often, the reason for the nerve irritation is a bulging disc. Sometimes this bulge can get caught on the sciatic nerve roots causing pain that travels all down the leg.

Sciatica is quite uncommon and fortunately most people recover fairly quickly, although in some cases it might take a number of months. This discomfort makes it hard to move around with ease and so daily activities are hard do. Sciatica often goes away by itself but there are exercises you can do to speed up recovery.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is back pain linked with pain in the legs which starts after a few minutes’ walking and tends to get better very quickly when you sit down. This can be a condition that you have from birth or develop as you get older.
Symptoms often affect both legs, but one may be worse than the other. The pain usually eases when you sit down and rest, and some people have less discomfort if they walk a little stooped. Like sciatica, the main problem tends to be leg pain more than back pain.

In most cases, neither sciatica nor spinal stenosis are causes for alarm, but if the symptoms cause you a lot of trouble and greatly affect your quality of life then you should see your doctor for further advice and to discuss what else can be done.

Other less common causes of back pain include:

  • Bone problems such as a fracture
  • An infection
  • A cancerous tumor
  • Inflammation
  • Cauda equina syndrome
  • Epidural abscess
  • Epidural hematoma

Bad Habits That May Cause Your Back Pain

If you frequently get back pain, you should consider looking at these bad habits and reflect on which ones you feel that you are doing and take action to prevent further discomfort:

  • Not exercising – leads to poor posture resulting in back pain
  • Having poor posture – adds strain to muscles and put stress on spine
  • Lifting incorrectly – lifting heavy objects awkwardly puts strain on back
  • Being overweight – again adds strain to muscles
  • Smoking – nicotine restricts blood flow to the disks, reduces calcium absorption and prevents new bone growth
  • Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D – these nutrients are vital for bone strength
What To Do If You’re Suffering From Back Pain

If you’re suffering from back pain, then the don’t hesitate to get in touch with Broadgate GP. As a private GP, we can help diagnose and treat a range of back problems. Whether it be medication or physiotherapy, we’ll find the best treatment plan for you. Book your appointment today.