What causes back pain?

Back pain may be caused by a number of different factors; most cases are mild and are described by doctors as ‘non-specific’ cases of back pain (this means they are associated with slight damage to the muscles, such as sprains or strains or troubles relating to the nerves, such as a trapped nerve. Sprains, strains and nerve damage may be caused by everyday activities including housework and lifting, sitting down for long periods of time at work and having poor posture; examples of triggers for back pain include:

  • Sneezing and coughing
  • Overstretching
  • Lifting something that is too heavy
  • Lifting in the wrong position
  • Twisting suddenly
  • Driving for a long period of time
  • Sitting down for long periods of time with the spine hunched (caused by having poor posture)

In many cases, people wake up with back pain or develop it suddenly without any apparent cause; common causes of back pain include:

  • Injuries
  • Accidents and falls
  • Pregnancy
  • Bone disorders
  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • Disturbed sleep patterns
  • Viral infections
  • Stress
  • Kidney conditions
  • Gynaecological health conditions, such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Arthritis (usually osteoarthritis)

Chronic back pain may be caused by conditions including fibromyalgia, shingles, cancer and congenital conditions that affect the spine.

Guide to Back pain

Back pain

What are the symptoms of back pain?

Causes of severe back pain

What causes back pain?

Preventing back pain

Treating back pain