Back Pain

Top 7 Causes of Lower Back Pain

When you suffer from chronic lower back pain, it’s tough to get comfortable in any situation. Standing hurts – sitting hurts. Walking hurts and driving hurts. Everything is tinged by discomfort and that constant, nagging pain. Worse, lower back pain can sometimes be difficult to cure, simply because there are so many different potential causes.

In order to help you find the pathway toward recovery, we have laid out a few of the common causes of lower back pain below. These explanations look both at what is happening on a muscular-skeletal level that is causing the pain, as well as the lifestyle habits that can be the culprits behind those issues.

The Science Behind Your Back Pain

If you are suffering from lower back pain, the important thing to note is that what you are feeling is not inexplicable. On the contrary, there is a completely scientific, anatomical explanation for the pain you are feeling—usually having to do with the nerves, vertebrae, and discs in your spine, if not all three.

One common lower back pain condition is called sciatica, which is caused by a pinching of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back and down into each leg, so if it is pinched by misaligned vertebra, that can bring about quite lot of lower-body pain. The cartilage discs between your vertebrae can also be a problem, causing pain by shrinking, tearing, bulging, or slipping.

If you are looking for a specific medical diagnosis for your back pain, seek assistance from a chiropractor or a doctor. Sometimes, an x-ray will be necessary to determine the core cause of the problem, as well as to formulate the best recovery and rehabilitation plan.

Contributing Lifestyle Factors

If you are awaiting a chiropractic appointment and want to know how you might have injured your back, or if you are looking for changes to make in your lifestyle to prevent chronic lower back pain in the future, you might consider the list of causes or contributing factors laid out below. Some back pain causes—such as sports injuries—are common knowledge; others, like dietary choices, might surprise you. All are important to be aware of if you want to avoid back pain issues.

Sporting Injuries

From a big tackle in a football game to a painful fall on the ski slopes, sporting injuries can manifest themselves as lower back pain.

The issue here is that athletes sometimes don’t realize that they have messed up their backs. They take a hard hit during a game, get up and play the rest of the game, and feel fine. It can take days or even weeks for back pain to appear after these kinds of jarring injuries.

Lack of Exercise

As described above, exercising can lead to lower back pain. However, safe exercise can also go a long way toward preventing back pain in the first place. Not only does moving around help to loosen up your muscles and joints—great if you are stiff from a poor night’s sleep or a long day spent sitting hunched over a computer—but it can also tone your muscles and give them the strength needed to support your back.

Lower back pain is so common in part because of the amount of weight and strain that the lower back has to carry. The upper body is heavy, and the lower portion of your spine takes the most abuse in holding it up. Thus, when you have strong muscles from frequent exercise, your lower spinal vertebrae don’t have to work so hard to support the upper body, which in turn leads to back pain relief.

Sitting at Work

Speaking of sitting hunched over a computer all day, your set-up at work—specifically your desk chair—could be causing huge issues for your lower back. For one thing, most desk chairs provide little to no support for your lower back. For another, most desk chairs promote bad posture.

Finally, sitting at a desk all day means you aren’t moving, which itself is a cause of muscle tension, spinal strain, and back pain. Find time to get up and walk around at work—whether it’s moving around the office to run short errands, or actually going for walks outside on your break. Better yet, get your employer to replace your seated desk set-up with a standing desk. This will promote better posture and will allow you to stay loose and move around as you work—reducing back pain in the process.

Your Diet

One of the biggest causes of lower back pain is body weight. As mentioned above, your lower back takes on a lot of strain from supporting the upper body, so the more you weigh, the more strain your lower back is going to have to absorb. Thus, if you are experiencing chronic lower back pain, weight loss might be the best and most effective course of action for correcting the issue. We’ve already covered a lack of exercise as a contributing factor, so look next to your diet. If your meals are mostly made up of fatty, unhealthy foods, then you might have found the problem.


Some of your clothing items could be the cause of lower back pain as well. Consider, for instance, your shoes: footwear that offers little support or shock absorbency (this is particularly a problem with old, worn out running shows) can transfer more than their fair share of jarring vibrations to your lower spine.

Wearing high heel shoes for any length of time can contribute to back pain. The American Orthopedic Association says, “Statistics show that high heels are one of the biggest factors leading to foot problems in women, with up to a third suffering permanent problems as a result of prolonged wear.” They recommend wearing heels that are no more than 1.5″ high with a wide heel base.

Worn Out Mattress

A lack of support can also be a problem—albeit, in a different way, with a worn out mattress. If your back pain feels more pronounced when you wake up in the morning, then it’s probably time to replace your mattress.

Michael Breus, PhD, a WebMD sleep expert and author of Beauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep says “If you wake up in the morning and have some low back pain and can stretch and get rid of it in 15 or 30 minutes, that means you’re on an inappropriate mattress for you.”

Keeping Your Wallet in Your Back Pocket

General wisdom says that you should keep your wallet in your back pocket, but doing so can actually be a major cause of back, neck, and shoulder pain. When you sit down with a thick wallet in your back pocket, you are sitting with one side of your body elevated higher than the other. Over a long period of time, this body position can twist your pelvis, misalign your spine, and cause a slew of pain problems.

Bottom line? Take your wallet out of your back pocket when you sit down. Better yet, replace it with an alternative, like a wallet phone case from eHolster!

As you can see, there are a lot of different potential causes for lower back pain, and the above list doesn’t even encompass all of them. However, what this list should do is give you an idea as to why you might be suffering from chronic back pain—as well as how you might go about solving the problem and preventing it in the future.

Do you have any other causes or cures to lower back pain? If so, please share your thoughts in the comments below.