The Causes of Back Pain That Everyone Should Know

Back pain is one of the most common types of pain that people report in the United States in 2022. It affects many seniors every day, and can get so bad that it often leaves older Americans bedridden until the pain subsides and they can once again move freely.

Back pain has a wide variety of causes, but some are more concerning than others. All it takes to stay up to date is a quick search online. If you’re concerned, see your doctor about any symptoms you’re experiencing.

back pain

There are many potential causes of back pain. Back pain can be triggered as a result of:

  • Fitness Level: Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit. For example, weak back and stomach muscles may not properly support the spine. Back pain is also more likely if you exercise too strenuously after being inactive for a while.
  • Weight Gain: A diet high in calories and fat, combined with an inactive lifestyle, can lead to obesity, which can put stress on the back.
  • Job-related risk factors: Jobs that require heavy lifting, pushing, pulling or twisting can injure the back. A desk job may also play a role, especially if you have poor posture or sit all day in an uncomfortable, non-ergonomic chair.
  • Age: Back pain becomes more common with age, particularly after the age of 45.
  • Heredity: Genetics play a role in some disorders that cause back pain.

Mild causes of back pain include:

  • Sprains, strains, and spasms.
  • Traumatic injuries such as those from playing sports, car accidents, or a fall that can injure tendons, ligaments, or muscles, as well as compress the spine and cause discs to rupture or herniate.

Major conditions that can cause back pain include:

  • Lung Cancer: If lung cancer grows and spreads, it can put pressure on the bones that make up the spine and spinal cord or the nerves as they exit the spinal cord. This can lead to pain in your neck or upper, middle or lower back. The pain may also spread to the arms, buttocks, or legs. Your back or neck may feel numb, weak or stiff.
  • Breast Cancer: Back pain isn’t one of the hallmark symptoms of breast cancer. It’s more common to have symptoms like a lump in your breast, a change in the skin on your breast, or a change in your nipple. But pain anywhere, including in your back, can be a sign of breast cancer that has spread, which is called metastatic breast cancer. When cancer spreads, it can get into the bones and weaken them.
  • Crohn’s Disease: If you have pain and stiffness in your lower spine, let your doctor know. It’s rare, but you could have a form of arthritis that can be linked to Crohn’s. Over time, it can cause the bones in the spine to permanently fuse.
  • Psoriatic Arthritis: Some people develop lower back pain as a result of psoriatic arthritis. Spondylitis mainly causes inflammation of the joints between the vertebrae of your spine and in the joints between your spine and pelvis (sacroiliitis).
1National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, Back Pain
2National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Low Back Pain Fact Sheet
3WebMD, The Link Between Lung Cancer and Back Pain
4Healthline, Is Back Pain a Warning Sign for Breast Cancer?
5WebMD, How to Avoid Crohn's Complications