Here’s What Causes Low Back Pain… and It’s Not What You Think

Back pain is by far the most common issue for which we see people at our clinic – we can tell you from experience that 99% of people don’t really understand where that back pain came from… read on to find out!


Low back pain

Low back pain is something that a majority of us – well over 80% of the world’s population – will deal with at some point in our lives. It used to be the case that back pain was considered a part of getting older but today many younger people are also struggling with aches and pains in the back and neck. But, what causes low back pain exactly?

Most of us mistakenly think that any back pain we experience must be attributed to a single incident – it’s easy to tie painful complaints to a specific incident which was noticeable – the time you picked up a box that was just a little bit too heavy, the time you were hit square in the back with a tennis ball, the time you tweaked your back while digging in the garden.

While many back pain issues are triggered by an incident of some kind, this is usually just the straw that broke the camel’s back. The truth is that it’s usually not just one incident contributing to your ongoing low back pain, rather it’s a chronic build up over time


Some Anatomy

First, some fundamental anatomy – Your low back – the most commonly affected area – is made up of 5 bones you’ll hear us refer to as the lumbar vertebrae, each with spinal discs in between them. These bones are critical to allow us to stand up and move about, but they also have the role of protecting your spinal cord which travels down through your spinal column and branches out to the left and right side in between each vertebrae.  Supporting the vertebra are a variety of ligaments, tendons, and muscles.

For your spine to work well (and without pain) all of these aspects need to be in good health, able to move and function as designed and also need to be in balance.


What Causes Low Back Pain

You might have now realised that low back pain often occurs because the stress on a particular area of your spine has outweighed your body’s ability to adapt to and handle that stress. It’s that simple. Of course, if the stress on any one area of the spine becomes too great, then an injury may occur – similarly, if a particular event pushes one aspect of the spinal structure beyond it’s limits that can be the start of a back pain episode.

When it comes specifically to what causes low back pain, the most common low back pain related injuries are sprains and strains, spinal disc bulges and herniations, and facet joint issues (misalignments, adhesions, etc). All of these can occur as a result of stress which builds up over time, or as a direct result of an incident or injury – but in both cases the fundamental problem remains the same – abnormal motion of the spinal joints and other structures in your low back can cause and contribute to ongoing low back pain.


How can you relieve lower back pain?

So, what can you do to relieve your low back pain?

What we’ve seen in our practice as far as what causes low back pain and how it should be treated aligns with what researchers have found.  The best way to reduce your risk of experiencing low back pain is to be proactive with your spinal health. Daily movement, dynamic stretching, regular exercise, and ongoing periodic chiropractic adjustments are all examples of simple steps you can take to help keep your low back in tip-top shape.

Chiropractic is great as a way to maintain good spinal health, but also has the benefit of being able to address many painful spinal issues -for just one example, a double-blind, randomized controlled trial found spinal adjustments to be more effective than NSAIDs (like ibuprofen) for the care of low back pain[1]. Research also strongly suggests that ongoing periodic chiropractic visits may prevent future episodes of low back pain[2] so if back pain is an issue for you a visit might be a great investment!

And whether it’s been some time since your last adjustment, you’re finally ready for your first, or you’re looking for advice on the exercises and stretches that make the most sense for you, know that we’re here to help.





[1] Spinal Manipulation Therapy and Placebo. Spine. 2013.


[2] Spinal Manipulation Therapy for Low Back Pain. Spine. 2011.


Blog by / November 12, 2022 / Blog

Dr. Paul Irvine is a doctor of chiropractic who graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of NSW and in 1996, attained his Master of Chiropractic degree from Macquarie University in Australia. He practised in North Sydney for 5 years before he left Australia to travel and practise in the UK. He joined Complete Chiropractic in 2003 (est 1999) and took over the clinic in 2007