Living with chronic back pain can be debilitating. Whether you’re dealing with a dull ache or a sharp pain, it can interfere with your daily routine and make it difficult to do the things you love.

Understanding what’s causing your back pain is the first step to finding relief. Here are some of the most common causes of chronic back pain, as well as some common back pain treatment options.

Common Causes of Back Pain

There are several medical conditions and lifestyle factors that can lead to chronic back pain. Here are some of the contributing factors we see most often.

1. Poor Posture

One of the most common causes of back pain is poor posture. Slouching or sitting for long periods in everyday activities can strain your back muscles. Poor posture puts extra pressure on the spine’s natural curves, causing painful muscular imbalances.

2. Muscle Strain

Lifting heavy objects can lead to muscle strains in the back. A sudden awkward movement or a bad fall can also strain back and abdominal muscles, resulting in significant discomfort.

3. Herniated Discs

A herniated disc occurs when the soft tissue inside the disc pushes out. This can put pressure on nearby nerves, making it one of the biggest risk factors for back pain.

4. Degenerative Disc Disease

As we age, the discs in our spine can wear down. This condition, known as degenerative disc disease, can cause chronic back pain. The discs lose hydration and elasticity, making them less effective at absorbing shock. This can lead to increased friction between the vertebrae, resulting in severe pain and stiffness.

5. Arthritis

Arthritis of the spine is a painful condition that becomes more common with age. It causes inflammation and stiffness in the joints, which can lead to pain while moving.

6. Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis weakens bones, making them more likely to fracture. Broken bones in the spine, ribs, or pelvis can cause severe back pain, even if it’s just a hairline fracture. Osteoporosis is more common in older adults and can happen as a result of hormonal changes, severe weight loss, or a lack of calcium.

Risk Factors for Back Pain

There are several risk factors for back pain and back injuries. If you have these risk factors, your chances of developing back pain are higher, and you’ll need to be proactive to keep your back muscles, bones, and nerves healthy. If you already struggle with back pain, these factors could make it worse.

1. Age

As we age, the risk of back pain increases due to wear and tear on the spine over time. The discs in the spine lose their cushioning ability, and the muscles and ligaments may weaken. Additionally, conditions like arthritis and osteoporosis become more common with age, further contributing to back pain.

2. Lack of Exercise

Weak abdominal muscles and back muscles, in particular, can contribute to back pain. If you live a sedentary lifestyle without regular exercise, your muscles will weaken, and your spine will lack the support it needs to stay properly aligned. This can lead to painful muscle tension and chronic low back pain.

Even a small amount of exercise can make a big difference if you’re struggling with back pain. If you work a sedentary job, try going on walks during your breaks or even investing in a standing desk.

3. Excess Weight

Carrying extra weight puts additional strain on your back, which can lead to pain and discomfort. The added weight can cause your spine to curve unnaturally, leading to misalignment and muscle fatigue. If excess weight is exacerbating your back pain, work with your doctor to adjust your diet and exercise routine.

4. Poor Lifting Technique

Lifting objects incorrectly can cause back injuries. While lifting, bend at the knees instead of the waist to avoid straining your lower back muscles. Additionally, avoid twisting your torso while doing any heavy lifting. This can lead to muscle tears and injuries to your spinal column.

5. Smoking

In addition to a host of other health concerns, smoking can reduce blood flow to the spine. This can lead to disc degeneration and other structural problems in the back.

Identifying Triggers

Many triggers can make back pain worse. Understanding these triggers can help you successfully treat the problem.

Stress is one of the most relevant risk factors for back pain. This is because stress can cause muscle tension in the back. Regular exercise can help with this — the movement will help reduce muscle tension, and the endorphins you’ll get during the workout will also help reduce your stress levels.

Additionally, not getting enough sleep or sleeping in an awkward position can cause back pain.

Potential Treatments for Back Pain

There are many options for back pain treatments that can help you manage your pain. Ideally, you should work with a healthcare professional to identify the underlying cause and find the right treatment for your needs.

1. Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is one of the most common treatments for back pain. It can help strengthen your back muscles and correct imbalances to relieve pain. Working with a physical therapist can also improve your posture and flexibility, which helps prevent future injuries.

Physical therapy involves gentle strengthening and mobility exercises, which you can do with the therapist and/or on your own at home. Your therapist may also apply heat, ice, or electrical stimulation.

2. Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is a back pain treatment that involves manual adjustments to the spine. This can help relieve pain and improve mobility, especially in patients who struggle with muscle imbalances or spinal misalignment in the back.

3. Heat and Cold Therapy

Applying heat or cold to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and pain. Use a heating pad or ice pack for relief. Ice is best to use right after a workout or a sharp increase in pain, as it reduces swelling. Heat helps manage morning stiffness, as it can help your muscles relax and increase mobility.

4. Lifestyle Changes

Making lifestyle changes can help prevent and manage back pain, especially when paired with other treatments for back pain. Maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, and practicing good posture are important.

5. Medications

Over-the-counter pain relievers can help manage back pain. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications. These prescriptions are usually paired with other medical treatments to reduce pain while addressing the root cause.

Schedule Your Back Pain Treatment at the Illinois Back Institute Today

Understanding the causes of back pain is the first step to finding relief. By identifying common triggers and risk factors, you can take steps to prevent and manage back pain.

The Illinois Back Institute offers natural, non-invasive treatments for back pain. Our unique approach to disc stabilization helps patients address back pain, neck pain, and leg pain stemming from the spinal joints and surrounding muscles.

Contact the Illinois Back Institute today to learn more about our back pain treatment options or to schedule an appointment.