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Understanding lower back pain, its causes and treatments

Many of us will experience lower back pain at some point in our lives. The good news: only 2-10% of people who experience lower back pain end up suffering from chronic back pain1. The bad news: even short-term pain can significantly disrupt your day-to-day life. That’s why it’s important for you to understand the causes of lower back pain and what you can do about it.

What is low back pain?

Low back pain is centred around the lower part of your spine and can also radiate into your pelvis, hips and even into your legs and glutes.

You may experience pain in your lower back as sharp, stabbing pain, a dull ache, numbness and tingling, or nerve pain. The kind of discomfort you feel may be a hint as to why you’re having low back problems. For example, radicular pain, which radiates from your back into your legs and may feel like numbness and tingling, occurs when the spinal nerve is pinched or inflamed.2

What causes lower back pain?

Understanding why you might be experiencing lower back pain is important in seeking appropriate treatment. The causes of lower back pain can include:

  • Lifestyle and posture. In a workplace study, researchers found that poor posture and low physical activity in the workplace are a major risk factor in developing lower back pain.3

  • Injury or illness. Various injuries including disc compression or an inflamed or impinged sciatic nerve can lead to lower back pain. In the case of chronic lower back pain, illnesses such as osteoporosis or arthritis can affect the lower back.4

  • Muscle or joint sprain. Overuse, overstretching or misuse of muscles and joints can lead to lower back pain. This can apply to the muscles and joints around your lower back and hips, or pain might come from overcompensating for muscle strain elsewhere in the body.

Risk factors that may make you more likely to experience lower back pain include being older, living a sedentary lifestyle, being overweight or doing physical work with improper technique.4

How can I fix lower back pain?

You’ll be glad to hear that lower back pain rarely requires surgery or other very serious medical intervention to treat. Research generally suggests that self-management with support from medical professionals when needed is usually perfectly sufficient5.

Some strategies for treating and reducing lower back pain include:

  • Get moving! The number one recommendation for lower back pain? Exercise. Research suggests that the type of exercise you’re doing is not overly important – the important thing is staying active. On the flip side, relying on rest and medication only may be useful for short-term, acute pain (say for an injury) but isn’t very helpful over the long-term.6,7

  • Strengthen muscles and improve mobility. While you’re working on an exercise regimen, make sure to include activity that combines muscular strength, flexibility and aerobic fitness. Strong core muscles support your lumbar spine, while improved flexibility in muscle-tendons and ligaments in the back assist with keeping your spine moving. Finally, aerobic exercise increases the blood flow to soft tissue, which can help with stiff or strained muscles.8

  • Address lifestyle factors. Make sure your working space is set up to be ergonomically friendly, try to move around regularly throughout the day and if you work a physical job with a lot of lifting, make sure you’re following proper guidelines to reduce stress on your lower back.

  • See your chiropractor. Research shows that seeing a chiropractor is useful in diagnosing, treating and managing low back pain disorders9. So, if you’re not sure where to start in handling your pain, head in to see the professionals.

Ready to get started in treating your lower back pain? Get in touch with our friendly team today to book an appointment.


1 P T Alpert., Management of Chronic Lower Back Pain, Home Health Care Management & Practice, 2013

2 I Urits, A Burshtein, M Sharma, et al., Low Back Pain, a Comprehensive Review: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Treatment, Curr Pain Headache, 2019

3 I M Goncharenko, N E Komleva, A A Chekhonatsky, Lower back pain at workplace: prevalence and risk factors, Russian Open Medical Journal 2020

4 Back pain, MayoClinic, 2020

5 C Maher, M Underwood, R Buchbinder., Non-specific low back pain, The Lancet, 2016

6 E A Shipton., Physical Therapy Approaches in the Treatment of Low Back Pain, Pain Therapy, 2018

7 C B Oliveira, C G Maher, R Z Pinto, et al., Clinical practice guidelines for the management of non-specific low back pain in primary care: an updated overview, Eur Spine, 2018

8 R Gordon, S Bloxham., A Systematic Review of the Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Non-Specific Chronic Low Back Pain, Healthcare (Basel), 2016

9 G Globe, R J Farabaugh, C Hawk, C E Morris, G Baker, W M Whalen, S Walters, M Kaeser, M Dehen, T Augat., Clinical Practice Guideline: Chiropractic Care for Low Back Pain, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 2016


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