Answers to Common Back Pain Questions

Premier Physician Network’s doctors answer frequently asked questions about back pain.

What usually causes lower back pain?

If you’re having lower back pain, you’re not alone. This kind of pain is something that seems to become more common as we age.

Sprains and strains, herniated discs, and stenosis are the most common causes of lower back pain, according to Harvard Medical SchoolOff Site Icon (HMS).

Sprains are injuries to your ligaments, which help hold the bones of your spine together. Strains are injuries to muscles or tendons that connect other muscles to back bones.  Herniated discs cause sudden lower back pain and sometimes even numbness. The pain and numb feeling can extend through your buttocks, down your leg, and – for some people – all the way into the foot.

Spinal stenosis is caused by bulging discs, thickened ligaments, or small growths squeezing on the spinal canal that holds the spinal cord.

Talk to your doctor for more information about what usually causes back pain.

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What are some of the best ways someone can prevent lower back pain?

Many times we are the cause of our own back pain by moving too quickly or too sharply, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). 

You can help prevent lower back pain by: 

  • Avoiding movements that jolt the back 
  • Buying ergonomically correct furniture 
  • Keeping correct posture 
  • Lifting objects and children properly 
  • Using ergonomically correct work equipment 

For more information about how to prevent back pain, talk with your doctor. 

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Are there factors, such as age or lifestyle choices, that increase someone’s risk for lower back pain?

A variety of factors can increase your risk of having lower back pain, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Some of those factors include:

  • Age
  • Children’s backpack overload
  • Genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress
  • Weakened abdominal muscles
  • Weakened back muscles
  • Weight gain
  • Work environment risks

Talk to your doctor for more information about risk factors that can increase your risk of lower back pain.

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What does the phrase “throwing out your back” mean, and is it accurate?

People often say they have “thrown out their back” when they have a sudden back pain. This could, for example, be caused by lifting something incorrectly, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) doctors.

When someone says this, they mean they have a great deal of pain in their back.

The saying is accurate to mean someone’s back is “out” of service for a time. Once someone “throws out their back,” they will want to take it easy and let their back work its way back into their regular movement.

Talk to your doctor for more information about what it means to “throw out your back.”

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Thanks to these Premier Physician Network’s doctors for answering these common questions about the back pain:

Additional Resources

This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.