Causes of Lower Back Pain

By Sally Ann Quirke, Chartered Physiotherapist | Filed under: Lower Back Pain


Summarising Lower Back Pain causes

Summarising what causes lower back pain is easy - it is caused by either an underlying medical condition, a traumatic injury (such as a road traffic accident), or by poor posture.

Let’s have a closer look at the typical causes of lower back pain - and follow that with the most effective lower back pain treatment for each. Once we put aside low back pain caused by traumatic injury, or pain caused by an underlying medical condition, then in all other cases:

In almost all cases that present to my clinic, Low back pain is caused by poor posture - either over time or as a result of poor posture adopted while lifting or direct impact. Although each lower back pain patient has an individual story and a resulting individual treatment - the underlying common factor is always poor posture. I have rarely seen low back pain develop in an individual who already has good posture.

Four main causes of lower back pain

Identifying your lower back pain causes is the most important step in your rehabilitation. This will ensure that you are treating your pain correctly. The Four main causes of lower back pain that I typically see are:

  1. Poor sitting posture: in a person working at a desk or in a car. Poor sitting posture places excess strain on joints, ligaments, muscles, discs and nerves. Over time this will result in a breakdown and strain on one or more of these structures, resulting in low back pain.

  2. Poor lifting techniques: in a person who lifts repetitively, or someone who is not used to lifting. A poor lifting technique is also a big cause of lower back pain. If you lift repetitively and incorrectly - then a breakdown of your tissues will occur. The other side of the coin is when someone is not used to lifting - and they strain their lower back from a once-off poor lifting technique.

  3. Road traffic accidents: often resulting in a whiplash injury. Road traffic accidents often cause tears to ligaments and muscles, causing pain associated with whiplash injuries.

  4. Medical conditions: such as arthritis, scoliosis,, ankylosing spondylitis and disc degeneration. My message is that although manual therapy and exercises may not cure you of your medical condition, the symptoms of your condition (including lower back pain)can be treated effectively through manual therapy and exercises - so improving your quality of life.

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Lower Back Pain Treatment.

The best approach to low back pain treatment is very simple in my experience as a Physiotherapist.

Eliminate the Cause

First eliminate the cause of the low back pain and then repair the damaged structure.

Eliminating the cause of Lower Back Pain is relatively straight forward

  • If the cause of your back pain was the result of an injury the cause is already removed once the accident is over. The focus is on injury rehabilitation.
  • If the cause was a poor lifting technique you must stop lifting, allow healing and correct your lifting technique before resuming your lifting activity.
  • If the cause is as a result of poor posture you must learn good posture and practice it to make it strong.

When it comes to Injury rehabilitation Repairing the damaged structure involves rest, time and professional assistance from a Physiotherapist. Rest and time alone will ease the pain, but if the structure does not heal in a good position - a re-occurrence is likely. A good example is if you have a torn muscle, you must rest it but also start exercises to stretch it at the correct time in the healing process. The correct time for stretching your muscle will depend on your healing process and you would need to be reviewed regularly by a Chartered Physiotherapist to properly advise you on this. The result will be a better and more resolution to your injury, as well as reducing the likelihood of it tearing again in the future due to poor healing.

The most common reason of re-occurrence of back pain in my experience is poor management of the original lower back pain episode. Seek correct professional advice from the outset. The most effective treatments that I use for lower back pain are:

  1. Mobilisation.
  2. Back stretching exercises.
  3. Posture correction.
  4. Lower back pain exercises for strengthening your back.
  5. Rest/activity balance.

After the treatment has been successful and your lower back pain has been resolved you must continue your posture exercises and strength exercises to prevent further episodes of lower back pain. Prevention is better than cure!!


While the content and materials contained in the articles on this website have been written & researched by Sally Ann Quirke, a professional, practising & fully qualified Chartered Physiotherapist (Physical Therapist) based in Ireland, they are provided for general information and educational purposes only. They do not constitute medical advice on any particular individual situation. Please see your Chartered Physiotherapist or other medical practitioner for full and individual consultation.

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