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Other Conditions Causing Lower Back Pain

There are many causes of back pain. Overuse injuries are a very common source of lower back pain and stiffness. However this usually goes away after a few days. Others causes of chronic pain include:

  • Disc tear
  • Spondylolisthesis. Normal wear and tear makes it hard for your joints and ligaments to keep your spine in the proper position, especially as we age. When a vertebrae moves more than it should, it can slide forward and on top of another. When this happens, bones can press on the spinal nerves and cause lower back pain.
  • Vertebral fractures caused by osteoporosis (brittle bones)
  • Spinal stenosis. A narrowing of the spine space around the spinal cord can put pressure on nerves. The narrowing is typically caused by bone spurs that have developed as a result of osteoarthritis.
  • Scoliosis. An abnormal curvature of the spine can cause back pain.

Less commonly, low back pain can be a sign of a serious medical condition, such as diabetes or a pinched nerve. In the case of a pinched nerve, the pain may be accompanied by symptoms like fever, chills, night sweats, or loss of bladder control.

Low Back Pain Images

Even with the more sophisticated techniques available to diagnose what's causing low back pain, many times doctors don’t know what caused the problem. "It's very hard for us to identify the reason for a patient's pain," Andersson says.

Although too much strain may be part of the equation, it isn't always entirely to blame for lower back pain. 

Tests used to help confirm the causes of back pain include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan, bone scan, and bone density test.

Lower Back Pain: Is It in Your Genes?

One of the main reasons a person develops low back pain and another doesn't may lie in their genes. With disc degeneration, Andersson says, “If you take twins -- one who is doing heavy physical work and one who is doing desk work -- and you compare their MRI exams, they are essentially identical. This tells you that genetic factors are very important.”

If you have chronic low back pain, you've likely inherited the tendency, and you're probably hardwired for it. The lower back contains sensitive receptors called nociceptive fibers, which send pain signals to the brain. "Some people have a lot of nociceptive fibers -- for example, in their discs -- while others have relatively few," Wisneski tells WebMD. That may be why one person can lift heavy weights many times and never experience low back pain, while another who barely lifts anything is in constant agony.

5 Ways to Ease Low Back Pain

Just because it's possible to inherit low back pain doesn't mean the matter is completely out of your control. "It's how we're born and how we take care of ourselves," Wisneski says.

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Every Day with Back Pain

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WebMD Video Series

Click here to wach video: Low Back Pain and Your Posture

What role does posture play in your chronic back pain — and what can you do about it?