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What Causes Back Pain?

The leading cause of disability in adults younger than 45 years old is back pain. The Mayo Clinic suggests that 80% of all Americans will experience low back pain at least once in their lives. Millions of Americans suffer through it, and there are many things that can cause it. In order to find out why your back is hurting you, you will need to schedule a visit with your doctor. However, we can break down the most common causes for the many kinds of back pain.



Straining your back is one of the most common causes of back pain. If you lift something that is too heavy, carry something improperly, or make a sudden and awkward movement, you could strain your back muscles. Strained muscles, strained ligaments, and muscle spasms are very common causes of back pain.

Low back sprains or strains can either happen suddenly or develop slowly over time if you are performing repetitive movements. Sprains and strains may not sound serious, but even though they don’t last very long, the pain can still be intense.

Structural Problems

When something is off in the spinal joints, muscles, discs, and nerves, you may experience back pain.

  • Ruptured Discs
    Each vertebra in our spine is protected by discs. If that disc ruptures, it will put pressure on the nerve and cause pain.
  • Bulging Disks
    Like ruptured discs, bulging discs can also put pressure on the nerves.
  • Sciatica
    You may experience a sharp pain shooting down the back of the leg through the buttocks because of pressure on a nerve.

Medical Conditions

Back pain can even be a side effect of many medical conditions, like the following:

  • Arthritis
  • Scoliosis (curvature of the spine)
  • Tumors in the back
  • Osteoporosis
  • Infections


Any kind of accident can cause back pain: sports injuries, a hard fall, and even car accidents. Sometimes, the pain may not show up right away. Many symptoms don’t show up until a few days following the incident – and sometimes, not until weeks later.

Everyday Activities

If you work a desk job, you are putting yourself at risk for back problems. However, even a standing job can affect your back as well. However, the problem may not lie in your career. Even poor posture and repetitive movement can cause you to injure your back. These are some common examples:

  • Bending awkwardly
  • Pushing or pulling
  • Heavy lifting
  • Standing for long periods
  • Bending down many times
  • Twisting
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Muscle tension
  • Overstretching
  • Slouching or straining your neck (ex: sitting at a computer or driving)
  • Long drives without a break
  • Wearing high heels

Risk Factors

Depending on your demographic or stage in life, you may be at higher risk for developing a back condition or disease. Just like obesity raises the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, there are also risk factors for back pain. Some of the more common risk factors are the following:

  • Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Old age
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Gender (female)
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Strenuous physical exercise
  • Strenuous physical work

Treatment Options

To find the best treatment for you, consult your doctor. Your doctor can perform different tests like X-rays, MRI or CT scans, bone scans, or electromyography to determine the cause of the pain. Your doctor may send you to a doctor who specializes in back or spinal issues, like a chiropractor. However, these are some of the most common treatment options for back pain:

  • Medication – A doctor may prescribe you painkillers, like codeine or hydrocodone, for a short period of time. Even some antidepressants have proven to help with symptoms. However, you shouldn’t begin taking any medications – other than over-the-counter pain medications – without consulting your doctor.
  • Physical Therapy – Heat, ice, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation are some muscle-release techniques many physical therapists perform to the back muscles and soft tissues to help alleviate the pain. Once the pain begins to lessen, the physical therapist will start to introduce strength and flexibility exercises for the back muscles. Even when you are not at the physical therapist, you will need to practice certain techniques regularly to incorporate into your everyday life. Even after the pain has ended, physical therapy can help prevent it from recurring.
  • Cortisone Injections – Cortisone injections are usually an option if physical therapy and medications haven’t helped or if the pain goes down the leg. The cortisone is injected into the area around the spinal cord, the epidural space, to reduce the inflammation around the nerve roots. Cortisone injections help keep the pain away for up to six weeks.

Visit the South Texas Spinal Clinic

If you live in the San Antonio area, you have access to the top spine doctors at the tip of your fingers –at the South Texas Spinal Clinic. With three convenient locations around the city, our team is ready to help you on your journey to pain relief. Don’t spend another moment living in unnecessary pain. Call the South Texas Spinal Clinic at (210) 614-6432.

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