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Lesser-Known Causes of Back Pain

Lesser-Known Causes of Back Pain

Back pain is very common. In fact, an estimated 80-90% of all Americans experience back pain at some time in their life. Furthermore, back pain is the single most common reason for primary care and emergency room visits.

However, what a lot of people might not be aware of is that back pain can develop due to more than just lifting something heavy or twisting wrong. In fact, a number of factors can contribute to back pain, such as smoking, depression, and even inactivity.

In this blog, the providers at Generations Family Practice in Cary and Raleigh, North Carolina, share some of the less common causes of back pain.

Diverse causes of back pain

When it comes to back pain, there are a number of well-known causes, such as using improper lifting techniques and having certain medical issues, such as herniated discs, arthritis, and osteoarthritis. However, there are also causes that aren't so well-known that you should be aware of. Here are some of them:

Being inactive

Chief among the lesser-known causes of back pain is being inactive or sedentary, which may seem a bit counterintuitive. After all, how can the lack of activity cause pain? The reason is that inactivity over a prolonged period of time can not only make your back stiff, but it can also weaken your core muscles.

And this can become a “Catch-22” if you already experience back pain. At first blush, you may think that if your back hurts, you shouldn’t do a lot of moving around or exercising. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Getting regular exercise can relieve pain as well as assist in the healing process.

In the long term, committing to be active can strengthen your core muscles and help prevent future sprains and stress. If you don’t exercise regularly, consult with your doctor about the types of exercises or activities that would be best for your fitness level.

Being overweight or obese

Your weight can also play an important role in the health of your back. If you carry excessive weight, the increased weight can trigger changes to your spine and increase the strain and stress on your muscles and ligaments as well.

If you carry extra weight in the stomach area, this will likely make your pelvis tip forward. And, because the weight and stress aren’t distributed evenly, this can result in lower back pain.


Surprisingly, smoking — and specifically the effects of nicotine — can also play a role in back pain. In fact, smokers are nearly three times more likely to experience lower back pain than the general population. Smoking can aggravate abdominal pain and joint pain as well. In fact, smoking can increase pain sensitivity in general.

Furthermore, tobacco products decrease the flow of nutrient-rich blood, which can result in spinal disc degeneration and stunt healing. If the previous facts on smoking and pain aren’t sobering enough, consider this: An estimated 18% of Americans are smokers, but they account for 50% of patients who seek pain treatment.

Depression and anxiety

In many cases, depression, anxiety, and pain can be connected, which can create a vicious cycle. For example, depression can manifest as unexplained physical symptoms, such as back pain or headaches. This pain can then worsen the depression. And without intervention, the cycle can continue and get worse.

If you have back pain and want relief, we can help. Our providers can give you a thorough evaluation and get to the root cause. Then we can design a treatment plan to give you relief. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Generations Family Practice today.

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