It’s safe to say that most of us are no strangers to back pain. 

There are times when you know why your back hurts. It could be that you spent too much time sitting down in front of the computer or it could be that you moved too quickly during yoga. But, sometimes it just appears out of nowhere. It’s definitely not a welcome surprise.

The good news is, sudden onset lower back pain is usually harmless and not a cause for concern. There are, however, some instances that are more serious than others.

Common causes of sudden lower back pain

You can get lower back pain all of a sudden for lots of reasons. The first step to treating it correctly is to know what’s causing it.

If you get back pain from exercising or moving too quickly, and it goes away within 72 hours after resting and applying ice, you don’t need to worry. On the other hand, if the pain appears out of nowhere, gets worse over time, and isn’t going away, it might be a sign of something more serious.

Mechanical Back Pain

Sudden lower back pain is usually referred to as “mechanical”. This pain is typically caused by musculoskeletal tension, most likely a muscle spasm. 

Pain from mechanical causes is nonspecific, meaning it’s difficult to determine where it stems from. In most cases, it doesn’t signal any serious health problems, and will usually pass with some rest, time, and taking it easy.

Minor Trauma

Accidents and minor traumas can cause disc injuries in the lower back at any time and without warning. There are as many as one third of people in the United States who have a bulging disc and are unaware of it because they don’t have or feel any symptoms.

The tiniest of movements can, however, change everything. A sudden move like sneezing or bending down is often enough to trigger the intense, sharp pain of a bulging disc.


There are over 100 different types of arthritis, which causes inflammation and pain in joints. All forms of arthritis involve pain that decreases when you move, pain that gets worse when you get up or go to sleep, and stiffness that lasts for more than 30 minutes after you wake up.

Usually caused by aging or joint trauma, osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis. Two other common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis, (most commonly affecting the hands, wrists, shoulders, and knees) and ankylosing spondylitis (most commonly affecting the spine, lower back, and pelvis).

The next few causes of sudden onset lower back pain are very rare, but if you’re experiencing any of the additional symptoms listed below with your pain, please seek medical attention.

Cauda Equina Syndrome

This is a rare disorder that causes pressure on the nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord and should be tended to by a medical professional as soon as possible.

These are some possible symptoms:

  • Weakness in the legs
  • Numbness in the “saddle” region below the tailbone
  • Bowel and bladder problems, including difficulty urinating

We can’t stress this enough. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms along with sudden onset lower back pain, contact your doctor immediately – this syndrome can potentially lead to permanent nerve damage.

Bone disorders, tumors, or infections

These conditions typically cause less than 1% of cases of sudden onset lower back pain, but they can result in serious health problems if left unaddressed.

Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Poor immune system
  • Having a history of cancer

Again, you should consult your doctor right away if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms in addition to sudden pain in your lower back.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Mostly seen in men over 60 who smoke, have high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, this condition causes the abdominal artery to enlarge. Cases are also few and far between.

The symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm include pulsating pain around the navel and persistent pain around the abdomen.

Do You Want To Treat Back Pain Without Drugs And Surgery?

Understanding your pain is the first step to relief. At the Illinois Back Institute, we’re dedicated to spreading knowledge about back pain and sciatica, because we know that making people aware of their condition improves their chances of recovery!

Let’s get you back to a healthy, pain-free life. Our experienced team of practiced doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, and nurse practitioners use a proven method that has helped over 500,000 patients.

Get started with a free consultation today! Fill out the form below or call us at (833) 215-7894 to schedule your free consultation.

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