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What causes low back pain?

The exact cause of low back pain is often hard to pinpoint.

While many theories exist to try to explain back pain by identifying certain structures in the back such as muscles, ligaments, joints and discs, in most cases there is no objective way to prove them. However, in many cases back pain can be quickly improved by maintaining good posture and lifestyle habits.

The good news is that back pain is rarely caused by a serious spinal condition - or any other serious medical condition. Most back pain resolves quickly on its own—at least to the point where you can do normal daily activities without limitation. Just because you may be experiencing back pain today doesn’t mean you will have a prolonged limitation from it.

Common myths

Bed rest is best
False! - Bed rest for more than a day or two can lead to slower recovery and can even worsen back pain. To avoid disability, keep moving!

If the pain is bad, there must be spinal damage or something out of place
False! - The spine is designed to be strong and stable and is reinforced by many powerful muscles and ligaments. Despite common fears that back pain could be a warning sign of a dangerous condition that could progressively worsen or lead to dislocating something in the back, only a small number of patients have a serious condition as the cause of their back pain.

An x-ray and/or an MRI will always identify my problem.
False! - Not all back pain needs x-rays or further imaging in order to get the best care. A good clinical exam is often all that is required.