Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

Understanding, Managing, and Preventing Lower Back Pain:

Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a prevalent issue that affects many individuals, especially those who spend long hours sitting at a desk. Did you know that up to 80% of people will experience low back pain at some point in their lives? Understanding the specific conditions that cause low back pain, their symptoms, and effective management strategies is crucial for maintaining a healthy back and preventing chronic back pain. This guide dives into five common low back pain diagnoses to help you better understand and manage your condition.

Lumbar Strain

Overview: Lumbar strain refers to an injury to the muscles or ligaments in the lower back. It often results from sudden movements, heavy lifting, or overuse.

Symptoms: Pain and stiffness in the lower back, muscle spasms, limited range of motion.

Management: Rest, ice and heat therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and exercises to strengthen the back muscles.

Prevalence: Lumbar strain is one of the most common causes of low back pain, affecting around 70% of people at some point in their lives. It is particularly prevalent in individuals with poor posture or those who engage in activities requiring repetitive bending or lifting .

Herniated Disc

Overview: A herniated disc occurs when the soft inner gel of the spinal disc leaks out through a tear in the outer layer. This can press on nearby nerves, causing pain.

Symptoms: Sharp pain radiating down the leg (sciatica), numbness or tingling in the legs, muscle weakness.

Management: Physical therapy, pain relief medications, epidural steroid injections, and in severe cases, surgery.

Prevalence: Herniated discs are common in people aged 35-55, with approximately 1-5% of adults experiencing a herniated disc at some point. This condition is responsible for 5-20% of cases of low back pain .

Spinal Stenosis

Overview: Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal, which puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. It is commonly caused by age-related changes such as arthritis.

Symptoms: Pain, numbness, or cramping in the legs when standing or walking, which eases when sitting or bending forward.

Management: Physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections, and possibly surgery to relieve pressure on the nerves.

Prevalence: Spinal stenosis affects about 8-11% of the population and is more common in individuals over 50. It is a significant cause of chronic low back pain in older adults .

Degenerative Disc Disease

Overview: This condition involves the gradual breakdown of the intervertebral discs, leading to pain, reduced flexibility, and potential nerve compression.

Symptoms: Persistent lower back pain that may radiate to the hips, buttocks, or thighs, pain worsening with sitting, bending, or lifting.

Management: Physical therapy, pain management, lifestyle modifications (e.g., weight loss, quitting smoking), and surgical options if conservative treatments fail.

Prevalence: Degenerative disc disease affects about 30% of people between the ages of 30 and 50 and is a leading cause of chronic low back pain, accounting for about 10% of all cases .


Overview: Spondylolisthesis occurs when one vertebra slips forward over the one below it. It can be caused by a birth defect, trauma, or degeneration.

Symptoms: Lower back pain, stiffness, pain radiating to the legs, muscle tightness.

Management: Physical therapy, bracing, anti-inflammatory medications, and in severe cases, surgical stabilization of the spine.

Prevalence: Spondylolisthesis affects about 3-6% of the general population and accounts for approximately 5-10% of cases of chronic low back pain. It is more common in individuals over 50 and in athletes involved in activities that place stress on the lower back .

How Severe is your Low Back Pain?

If you’re experiencing low back pain and want to understand its severity, fill out the quiz below. This tool is designed to help you assess the extent of your discomfort and identify areas where you may need further attention or treatment. By filling out the quiz, you’ll gain valuable insights into your back pain, allowing you to take informed steps towards managing and alleviating it. Take the quiz today to better understand your back pain and start your journey towards a healthier back.

Low Back Pain Treatment

Managing low back pain often requires a multifaceted approach. Physiotherapy can help by designing specific exercises to strengthen the back and core muscles, improve flexibility, and reduce pain. Chiropractic care focuses on spinal adjustments to correct misalignments and relieve pressure on nerves. Massage therapy can alleviate muscle tension, improve circulation, and promote relaxation. Additionally, programs like the Back to Active Physio-Pilates at LiveActive Sport Medicine provide a comprehensive approach, combining physiotherapy and Pilates to enhance movement patterns and strengthen muscles, supporting long-term back health.


Understanding the specific conditions that cause low back pain is essential for effective management and prevention. By recognizing the symptoms and seeking appropriate treatment, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing chronic pain and enhance your overall quality of life. Remember, maintaining a healthy back involves more than just treating pain—it requires proactive measures like proper ergonomics, regular exercise, and stress management.

Explore our additional resources to learn more about maintaining a pain-free life:

  • Ergonomic Workspace Setup Guide
  • Effective Stretches and Exercises for Low Back Pain
  • Proper Lifting Techniques to Avoid Back Injuries
  • Managing Low Back Pain

Start your journey towards a healthier back today by incorporating these strategies into your daily routine. If you have persistent or severe back pain, consult with a healthcare professional to determine the best course of action tailored to your needs.


  1. Hurwitz, E. L., Morgenstern, H., & Vassilaki, M. (2002). Comparative analysis of individuals with and without chiropractic coverage: Patient characteristics, treatment patterns, and health outcomes. Spine Journal, 27(2), 169-179. https://journals.lww.com/spinejournal/Abstract/2003/02150/Comparative_Analysis_of_Individuals_With_and.16.aspx
  2. Deyo, R. A., & Mirza, S. K. (2006). Clinical practice. Herniated lumbar intervertebral disk. New England Journal of Medicine, 347(23), 1761-1771. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMcp054185
  3. Jordan, J., Konstantinou, K., & O’Dowd, J. (2008). Herniated lumbar disc. BMJ Clinical Evidence. https://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/x/systematic-review/0601/overview.html
  4. Kalichman, L., & Hunter, D. J. (2008). Diagnosis and conservative management of degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis. European Spine Journal, 17(3), 327-335. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00586-007-0543-3
  5. DePalma, M. J., & Ketchum, J. M. (2012). Degenerative disc disease. The Spine Journal, 12(6), 481-489. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1529943011006147
  6. Bendo, J. A., & Ong, B. (2001). The prevalence of spondylolisthesis in the adult population: A review of the literature. Spine, 26(9), 940-947. https://journals.lww.com/spinejournal/Abstract/2001/05010/The_Prevalence_of_Spondylolisthesis_in_the_Adult.2.aspx
  7. Wiltse, L. L., & Winter, R. B. (1983). Terminology and measurement of spondylolisthesis. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 65(6), 768-772. https://journals.lww.com/jbjsjournal/Abstract/1983/65060/Terminology_and_Measurement_of_Spondylolisthesis.2.aspx