Main causes of lower back pain

The main causes of lower back pain 

Lower back pain affects most people at some point in their lives. The most common type is non-specific back pain, which means there is nothing that can be seen with medical investigations that indicate a particular cause for the pain. If you have severe or persistent lower back pain and you’re looking for physiotherapy in Twickenham, our experts can assess you carefully and come up with a programme consisting of advice, home exercise and manual therapy to target the affected area. 

But as always, prevention is better than cure, which is why understanding the causes of lower back pain can help you avoid it in the first place. 

Common causes of lower back pain

The main causes of lower back pain can be social, psychological and biological, or a combination of all of the above. By identifying what’s contributing to your back pain you can adapt your lifestyle to minimise and prevent backache.


Dealing with pain, especially chronic pain, can make you fearful of physical activities and worried about whether you will ever be pain-free again. This can result in low moods and inactivity, which can both worsen your pain. 


If your muscles are weak, your body may react poorly to a variety of different, everyday movements. There are a number of ways to strengthen your muscles, including those in your limbs and core, which can improve your body’s ability to cope with pressure and force. 

If you suddenly become more physical, you may find your body, including your lower back, feels stiff and achy. You can improve your flexibility with yoga or gentle stretching exercises. This will reduce the tension in your back and other areas.


Although pain is a physical experience, emotions can also cause a physiological response in your body. Consequently, stress caused by a variety of social factors, such as difficulty at work or with your relationships, or dealing with a family death or crisis, can all result in lower back pain. 

How to avoid lower back pain


Restful periods of sleep help restore your energy levels. This not only improves your emotional wellbeing but also helps with the motivation to stay physically active. A good night’s sleep can, therefore, target several of the main causes of lower back pain, namely stress, inactivity and poor muscle strength. 


If you’re carrying extra weight it can put stress on your body and contribute to tension in your back and inflammation of your tissues. The result is often a multitude of aches and pains, including lower back pain. Losing excess weight and maintaining a healthy weight, therefore, reduces the strain on your back. 


Poor posture is a well-known cause of lower back pain as it prevents your weight being equally distributed across your back. Instead, certain parts of your spine and back muscles become painful. Slouching at your desk is notorious for causing lower back pain. However, it can be tiring to maintain the correct posture at your desk for long periods of time. So make sure you get up every hour and walk around for a couple of minutes to stretch out your back muscles. Alternatively, if possible, you can try using a standing desk. 


Exercise, particularly cardiovascular activity such as running, swimming or even regular walking, gets your blood flowing, increases your mobility and strength, and eases muscle tension. This makes it great for preventing back pain.

How physiotherapy can help

If your back pain persists for over a month it might be worth popping in to see one of our physiotherapists. We can advise you on a series of gentle exercises and stretches to improve your muscle strength, posture and mobility. 

We can often be quite precise as to the source of the pain and target this area.  We also provide hands-on therapy to reduce muscle spasms, joint sensitivity and stiffness, which often contribute to lower back pain.  Sometimes we will need to refer you for further investigations.

When you should see a doctor

Most people find their lower back pain improves within 4–6 weeks. However, if your lower back pain is persistent or severe, you should see your GP, as well as a physiotherapist. Your GP can help with a short course of different medications, which often aid recovery.

However, sometimes symptoms might point to something serious such as cauda equina syndrome, when the nerves at the bottom of your spine are compressed. This usually requires urgent treatment but is very rare.

Call your GP immediately if you:

  • feel a tingling sensation or numbness around your buttocks or genitals
  • struggle to pass urine
  • lose control of your bladder or bowels
  • your legs feel weak or you feel unsteady when you walk
  • have a temperature or feel clammy.

If you’re unable to identify the main causes of your lower back pain or you’re struggling to manage it, don’t suffer in silence. Call us on 0208 898 1213 and one of our friendly practitioners will assess you and guide you through your treatment options.

This is general information and guidance; it does not substitute for specific advice provided following a proper assessment.