Common Causes of Lower Back Pain (and How to Prevent Them)

Roughly 80 percent of adults experience lower back pain at one time or another, making it the third most burdensome condition among Americans according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study.

Thankfully, most lower back pain is “acute” – or short-term – lasting only a few days or weeks. This type of pain typically comes from strain on the lower back muscles after repetitive motion or heavy lifting, and symptoms can be relieved with rest, ice and an NSAID like Ibuprofen.

But when pain does not subside after more than 12 weeks, it’s considered chronic. Around 20 percent of those affected by acute lower back pain develop chronic lower back pain. Whether short-term or chronic, here are some of the most common causes of lower back pain, and ways to prevent or address them:

A sudden increase in activity: Spring cleaning, gardening and other outdoor activities have made many of us more active than we were over the winter. This sudden shift in activity level can make for sore muscles throughout the body – especially the lower back. If you’ve been sedentary and are inspired to get moving, take a measured approach. Limit your period of exertion to 10-20 minutes the first few times and build up your strength and endurance over time. If you are working in the yard or the house, take care to use tools and postures that support the body like lifting with your legs,and using a knee pad in the garden,rather than bending from a standing position.

Sitting too long or the wrong way: Even if your activity levels are relatively consistent, lower back pain can also come from poor posture and sitting too long in one position, such as at a desk or on a long flight or car ride. If you’re sitting at home or the office, you have many options to minimize or eliminate lower back pain. Start by sitting up straight and keeping your feet flat on the floor – good posture can go a long way to alleviate pain.

If you are accustomed to slouching, you’ll find that good posture takes practice and strength over time as you learn to engage your core and back muscles. You can also sit on an exercise ball or stand as both require you to engage your muscles to stay balanced. Standing desks are more popular and affordable than ever and many are adjustable from sitting to standing so you can take breaks as your body gets accustomed to the change.

If you’re riding in a car or a plane, use a lumbar support. Many cars have seat settings for the lumbar area, but planes obviously do not. Rolling up a small towel or your jacket can provide the same benefit: simply place it at the small of the back, near your belt level.

 Lack of Fitness: Back pain is more common among those who are not physically fit, particularly if they are carrying any extra weight. Excess bodyweight puts more stress on the back,and weak core muscles cannot counterbalance that weight to support the spine. In other words, mind your bodyweight and focus on building core strength. Our team of specialists recommends exercises to strengthen your core and back. The stronger your body overall, the more you can support your spine, and the better your back will feel.

Carrying too large a load: Whether you carry a backpack, briefcase, messenger bag, purse or even a baby, the weight of your load and how you carry it can cause or prevent lower back pain. Heavy loads strain the back and fatigue muscles, so be mindful not to overload backpacks and bags – especially for children. Wearing any type of bag on a single shoulder puts the spine out of balance, which can exacerbate the problem. Holding a child on one arm or hip has a similar effect. Instead, look for a bag or baby carrier that allows you to center the weight across your back or core.

Injury and disease:Back pain can also be related to degenerative diseases like arthritis, trauma, and disk injuries like bulging or ruptured (herniated) disks which can also lead tosciatica (when the herniated disc presses on the sciatic nerve, often causing additional pain in the legs and feet). If you have chronic lower back pain and have tried tactics to relive the pain,but still don’t have relief, it’s time to see an orthopedic spine doctor.A number of problems can change the structure of the spine or damage the vertebrae and surrounding tissue. Understanding the cause of your back pain is the key to proper treatment.

The highly qualified neck and spine orthopedic surgeons and physiatrists at Advanced Orthopedic & Sports Medicine have expertise in non-surgical spine care using conservative comprehensive care. Physical therapy, interventional spine care, and injections are among the most common. If spine surgery is necessary, our board-certified spine surgeon has advanced training in lower back procedures to help you overcome pain and live an active life. Learn more:

Best Lower Back Pain Specialists

Michael Shen, MD

Dr. Michael Shen

Christopher D'Ambrosia, MD

Dr. Christopher D’Ambrosia

Cervical Fracture

Cervical Fracture

Denver back pain specialists

Golf swing causing lower back pain? Denver back pain specialists reveal how to Prevent, Treat and Recover Faster from back pain

They say golf is a lifelong sport, and many enjoy the game from childhood well into their later years. But if you feel lower back pain when you tee off, you may wonder how long your playing days will last. Whether your pain is chronic or you feel the occasional twinge when you try to hit the cover off the ball, make it a priority to diagnose and address your pain so you can enjoy the links as much as possible before the snow flies. Dr. Chris D’Ambrosia, one of the Denver back pain specialists at Advanced Orthopedics shares the keys to prevent, treat and recover faster.

Prevent Lower Back Pain

Prevention starts well before you show up at the course, with a strong core.  This is admittedly the “eat your vegetables” equivalent of preventing back pain, in that it’s not something you can accomplish the minute you decide to pick up a club.

A strong core takes commitment and time off the course, but don’t be discouraged, even a little improvement can go a long way. If you are not used to doing core exercises, start with a couple of basic exercises, like standing bicycle crunches or seated leg lifts – both are a great way to start working on your core without doing sit ups.  Once you master some basics you can add new moves to continue your progress.

You use your core in many everyday activities lifting a grocery bag or laundry basket – take advantage of these activities by concentrating on your core muscles.

When you arrive for a tee time, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to stretch and warm up. Too many people show up just minutes before their time and take their first swing on the #1 tee box. This is a surefire way to put unnecessary strain on your back. The pros know this better than anyone, and the PGA offers some great resources for stretching and core strength.

Denver back pain specialistsTreat Lower Back Pain

While most golf-related lower back pain, such as strains or sprains go away in days or weeks, more serious and sustained pain can be a sign of an injured disc or other condition.

If you have back pain that’s not going way, see a pro – a medical professional. Across Denver back pain specialists evaluate and diagnose your condition and work with you on a treatment plan. Dr. Michael Shen and I evaluate patients for back injuries and disorders and work with each patient to identify the right treatment approach, which may include physical therapy, therapeutic injections, or surgery when needed.

Recover Faster

This time of year, it’s hard for many to stay away from the course. But if you have an injury, be smart a take a few days’ rest to allow your body to heal.  Many minor strains will heal on their own with proper rest, ice and a little ibuprofen (such as Advil), which is an anti-inflammatory.

If you are working with Denver back pain specialists, approach it as a team effort. We bring the expertise; you bring the commitment. This is especially important if you want to minimize your down time. Physical therapy is frequently part of the plan and sticking to your PT plan makes a huge difference.  This typically includes a combination of stretches, strength exercises, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication.

There are more than 300 great public and private golf courses across Colorado, do your part to prevent and recover from back pain more quickly so you can experience all they have to offer.

Pain Syndrome – Low Back Pain

Treatment and Rehabilitation – Treatment Options for Low Back Pain

Non-Surgical Treatment – Low Back Pain Exercise Guide

For diagnosis and treatment for low back pain, see us at our Denver or Parker location. Call for an appointment (303) 344-9090.

Source: Advanced Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Specialists: Denver back pain specialists.


Gene P

Dr. Shen, you have cared for me through four back surgeries and provided wonderful advice and information on my diagnosis and recovery. I am forever grateful for your knowledge and care, and I will remember you always.

Jeanette B

She wanted to personally relay how thankful she was to see Dr. Shen one morning and how clear he made everything for her & boosted her with confidence. She said she was not tech savvy and did not know how to leave a google review, but she would give Dr. Shen 5 stars if she knew how.