8 Common Causes of Low Back Pain

If you have low back pain, you are not alone. As many as 25% of people in the United States reports having low back pain in the past 3 months. In most cases, low back pain is mild and disappears on its own. For some, low back pain can return or never go away. Persistent low back pain can lead to a decrease in your quality of life or even disability.  

Is Your Low Back Pain an Emergency?

If your low back pain is accompanied by the following symptoms, you should visit your local emergency department immediately:

Loss of bowel or bladder control

Numbness in the groin or inner thigh

These symptoms might indicate a condition called “cauda equina syndrome,”. With this syndrome nerves that control bowel and bladder function are being squeezed. 

For more resources on low back pain, visit our Health Center for Low Back Pain.

Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of low back pain can vary a great deal depending on the structures involved. Your pain may vary from a dull ache to burning to sharp shooting pain. You might the pain in a single point of your low back or throughout a large area. Your back pain might also involve muscle spasms or stiffness. Low back pain can also spread into one or both legs. 

There are 3 different categories or types of low back pain

Acute – pain lasting less than 3 months

Recurrent – acute symptoms come back

Chronic – pain lasting longer than 3 months

Most people who have an episode of acute pain will have at least 1 recurrence. While the actual cause of low back pain isn’t often known, symptoms usually resolve on their own. Factors like self-confidence and perceived ability may influence your recovery. It has been shown that self-confidence and perceived ability are predictors of low back recovery. It has often been thought that low back pain is directly correlated to tissue damage. In current pain science we have begun to understand that pain in general is complicated. 

Low back pain is rarely serious or life threatening. There are several conditions or syndromes that may related to your back pain. Some common causes for back pain are:

1. Degenerative Disk Disease

2. Lumbar muscle strain

3. Spinal Stenosis

4. Lumbar ligament sprain

5. Herniated Disk

6. Osteoarthritis

7. Osteoporosis

8. Nerve Compression

While these are common low back abnormalities they may not be directly causing you pain. These conditions are also present in people who are not suffering any pain.

The good news is that conservative treatment like physical therapy can help to control your low back pain no matter your condition.


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