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Why Does My Lower Back Hurt All of a Sudden?

woman holding babyThe pain might seem to come on suddenly but most likely the causes have been building over time. That’s because the lumbar spine, located in the lower back, plays an important role in supporting the weight of the upper body and is responsible for everyday movements, such as bending and twisting.

Because of this daily use, the bones, muscles, ligaments, disks and nerves found in the lumbar spine are prone to both injury and wear and tear over time, causing pain in the lower back.

Nearly 80% of people will have lower back pain at some point in their lives. It’s one of the most common causes of healthcare office visits.

The Pain

While lower back pain is quite common, it is not always experienced in the same way. The are multiple ways people feel this pain:

  • Dull ache in the hips and/or pelvis
  • Muscle spasms or tightness
  • Sharp, tingling pain that starts in the lower back and travels down one leg (also known as sciatica)
  • Pain that worsens with sitting and improves while walking
  • Pain that is worse in the morning

The Risk Factors

Lower back pain may seem to appear out of nowhere, but there are reasons why some people experience this pain while others do not.  Risk factors for lower back pain include:

  • Age: People over 30 are more likely to have back pain. Disks wear away with age. As they weaken and wear down, pain and stiffness can occur.
  • Weight: People who carry extra weight are more likely to have back pain. Excess weight puts pressure on joints and disks.
  • Overall health: Weak stomach muscles do a poor job of supporting the spine, which can lead to back strains and sprains. Also, people who smoke, drink alcohol excessively or don’t get much exercise have a higher risk of back pain.
  • Occupation and lifestyle: Jobs and activities that require heavy lifting or bending can increase the risk of back injury.

The Treatments

Lower back pain usually gets better with rest, icing, heat, and over-the-counter pain relievers. After a few days of rest, most people can start to get back to normal activities. Staying active increases blood flow to the area in pain and helps the healing process.

Other treatments for lower back pain may include:

  • Medications: A provider may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or prescription drugs to relieve pain. Other medications relax muscles and prevent back spasms.
  • Physical therapy (PT): PT can strengthen muscles so they can support the spine. PT also improves flexibility and helps avoid another injury.
  • Hands-on manipulation: Several “hands-on” treatments, including massage, can relax tight muscles and reduce pain.
  • Injections: A provider uses a needle to inject medication into the area that’s causing pain. Steroid injections relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Surgery: Some injuries and conditions need surgical repair. There are several types of surgery for low back pain, including many minimally invasive techniques. 


To reduce your risk of a back injury, you should:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight puts pressure on vertebrae and disks.
  • Strengthen your abdominal muscles: Pilates and other exercise programs strengthen core muscles that support the spine.
  • Lift the right way: To avoid injuries, lift with your legs (not your back). Hold heavy items close to your body. Try not to twist your body while you’re lifting. 

Long Term Considerations

Most people with lower back pain caused by strains and sprains recover and do not have long-term health issues. But many people will have another episode within a year.

Some people have chronic back pain that doesn’t get better after several weeks. Older people with degenerative conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis may have symptoms that get worse over time. In these cases, surgery and other treatments are effective at helping people with a range of injuries and conditions live pain-free.

*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery