Common Causes of Back Pain


Young woman wincing with pain in a consultation with her doctor - copyspace

If you ever find yourself shifting around uncomfortably because your back is hurting, you’re not alone. Back pain is a very common ailment that makes working and living an active life difficult.

Because there are so many different reasons you might find yourself struggling with back pain, it’s important to take a careful look at your lifestyle to find the best way to alleviate your discomfort.

  1. Having poor posture

This is probably the most common cause of back pain. If your job requires you to sit at your desk on your computer, it’s easy to find yourself slouching. Unfortunately, poor posture is a strong contributing factor to back pain.

If you find your back aching after a day at the office, look into other options. Try a standing desk or adding lumbar support to your chair. Take frequent breaks from sitting to stretch your muscles out with a walk around your office.

Slouching and sitting still for long periods of time can damage the discs in your back. When a disc is injured or strained, it puts pressure on the nerves surrounding it. That causes the sharp pain that can make working so uncomfortable.

  1. Lifting items incorrectly

You don’t even have to lift something too heavy for you—lifting anything incorrectly has the potential to strain the muscles in your back and cause discomfort. Twisting around awkwardly, bending over to lift with your back instead of your legs, and simply not paying attention to how your body is moving can contribute to acute back pain.

To avoid this kind of back pain, always be aware of how your body is moving. If you have to bend down to pick up an item, bend your knees to kneel instead of bending over at the waist. The extra focus this requires is a small price to pay to prevent back pain.

  1. Having an underlying skeletal problem

If you can’t quite put your finger on when your back started to hurt, you might have an underlying medical condition causing your back pain. Arthritis sometimes attacks your spine, narrowing the space around your spinal cord. Osteoporosis can cause compression fractures that cause pain.

If you’re suffering from chronic back pain, it’s important to see your doctor about your concerns. A doctor will be able to look at your symptoms and provide the necessary tests—such as an X-ray or a CT scan—and review appropriate treatment options.

tying-shoelacesWe know that living with chronic pain – pain that lasts more than 6 months – is stressful both physically and psychologically. Here are some ways that you can manage your pain and improve the quality of your day-to-day life:

1. Lose weight, if you need to. Being overweight can be hard on your back and joints. For every pound of extra weight, you add about 5 lbs of extra stress on your knees.

2. Continue (or start to) exercise. It sounds counter-intuitive, but exercise has been shown to be moderately effective for chronic pain. Even minimal movement such as walking can give you an endorphin boost and lift your mood. Consult with your physician about which exercises and stretches are appropriate for your condition.

3. Practice deep breathing. Meditation has been used for hundreds of years to calm the mind and reduce stress. This, in turn, can ease the tension in your muscles and decrease your sensitivity to pain. Try one of these three breathing exercises at home or take a guided meditation class.

4. Avoid alcohol. Although alcohol is a depressant, it disrupts normal sleep patterns, waking you up at night and leaving you feeling exhausted, even in the morning. Avoid drinking close to bedtime and limit yourself to 1-2 servings.

5. Eat better. Maintaining a well-balanced diet full of intact grains, vegetables and lean protein will improve your overall health. Eating well can also help you maintain your ideal weight and minimize glucose spikes.

6. Explore all your options. Though medication and physical therapy can be effective for mild pain, there are a number of new and improved treatments available today. Give us a call to learn about the advanced procedures we use at the Hemlock Pain Center to treat chronic pain and minimize the effect it has on your quality of life.

patient-and-doctor-talkingThe sciatic nerve, the largest nerve in the body, runs from the lower back down the back of the leg. When it is compressed or pinched due to a medical condition or an injury, you may experience what is referred to as sciatic nerve pain. Sciatica is actually a symptom, not a condition. It is the term used to describe pain that may radiate down the leg, usually only on one side. You may also feel weakness and tingling anywhere along the nerve’s pathway. The pain can be sharp, intense and debilitating.

Some of the conditions that cause sciatica include:

When to See Us

Mild sciatica will usually resolve itself within a few weeks. If you choose to seek medical help, our doctors will perform a physical and neurological examination to determine the best course of treatment for you. We may prescribe imaging tests such as an X-Ray, a Cat scan (CT scan) and/or an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to diagnose the root cause of your symptoms.

The following treatments could be a part of your get-well plan:

In more severe cases that result in debilitating leg weakness, impaired bowel or bladder function, and loss of sensation, you may need to have surgery.


Certain exercises and stretches such as yoga reduce your risk of developing a herniated disk. Remember to maintain good posture to minimize the stress on your back and practice proper lifting technique­. It isn’t always possible to prevent sciatica but you can take action today to minimize its effects and lead a healthy and happy life.