Causes of Back Pain

Causes of Back Pain


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What causes back pain? It is important to understand that backs are very individual and there are many different causes of back pain. Back pain is often due to a combination of issues, including: ·

  • Trauma (acute and chronic)
  • Degeneration
  • Spinal musculature which has become weak or deconditioned
  • Uncoordinated muscle firing patterns
  • Faulty spinal biomechanics
  • Joint dysfunction
  • Poor posture

Determining the exact cause of back pain can be a challenge, and requires obtaining an accurate history and an appropriate examination. This page describes several common causes of back pain.

If you are suffering from back pain, do not try to self-diagnosis the cause. Make an appointment with a back pain specialist at The Roeske Clinic to evaluate your situation and design a back pain treatment program for you.

Bulging Discs

Discs are located between the vertebrae (bones of the spine) and act as shock absorbers for the spine. The outer disc wall, known as the annulus fibrosis, surrounds a jelly-like center known as the nucleus pulposus. Through years of wear and tear, constant vibration or pounding, a slip and fall, coughing or sneezing, lifting and twisting or simply bending to pick up a piece of paper can cause a weakening of the disc wall and cause a bulge or tear which presses on surrounding nerves. This is a condition in which part or all of the soft, gelatinous central portion (nucleus pulposus) of an intervertebral disc is forced through a weakened part of the annulus fibrosis portion of the disc resulting in back pain and nerve root irritation.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degeneration of the disc over time produces low-grade inflammation and irritation and is a major cause of chronic low back pain. Because the discs in the spine do not have a dedicated blood supply, the discs must rely on a process called diffusion to receive their supply of water, nutrients, and oxygen. If the flow of these elements is disrupted, the vertebral discs can degenerate. This is a state of dehydration. Degenerative discs become more susceptible to injury from physical stress and day-to-day activities which can play a contributing role to serious conditions such as disc herniation, osteoarthritis, and spinal stenosis.


Sciatica refers to pain felt along the length of the sciatic nerve. The pain is usually felt in the buttocks, where it radiates down the leg. If you suddenly start feeling pain in your lower back or hip that radiates to the back of your thigh and into your leg, you may have a protruding (herniated) disc in your spinal column that is pressing on the roots of the sciatic nerve. This condition is known as sciatica.
Quite often, leg pain or foot pain does not mean that there is a problem with the leg or foot, but rather that there is a problem in the lower back, causing pain and possibly other symptoms to radiate, or be referred to, the leg or the foot.
An important thing to understand is that sciatica is a symptom of a problem – of something compressing or irritating the nerve roots that comprise the sciatic nerve – rather than a medical diagnosis or medical disorder in and of itself. This is an important distinction because it is the underlying diagnosis (vs. the symptoms of sciatica) that often needs to be treated in order to relieve sciatic nerve pain.

Facet Syndrome

Facets function as guides to align the vertebrae of the spine. Facet Syndrome can result from injury or degeneration of the disc(s). The facet joints are where the back of the vertebrae interconnect to limit motion. They are designed to impart strength, flexibility, and maintain spinal integrity, as well as offer a range of defined movement for each vertebral level.

The facet joints are richly innervated. When these joints become too tight, inflamed, or otherwise irritated, they can trigger symptoms of numbness, tingling, burning, and achy soreness along the nerve path.

Sacroiliac Joint Syndrome

The sacroiliac (SI) joints are comprised of the triangular sacrum (at the base of the spine) and the right and left ilia, which together form the pelvis. The SI joints lie under the “dimples” at the base of the low back. They are held together by strong ligaments and typically have little motion, although they can become “stuck” or fixated, or at times hypermobile (too loose) such as during pregnancy. SI joint pain can mimic other types of low back conditions. Your chiropractor will perform various orthopedic and other tests to determine if you are suffering from SI joint syndrome.