What are Common Causes of Sudden Lower Back Pain?

Autumn Rivers

Sudden lower back pain is typically acute, or short-term, though it can become more serious if treatment is put off. One of the most common causes of sudden lower back pain is injury, such as a sprain, strain, or fracture. Old age can also result in acute pain as a result of spinal stenosis or osteoarthritis, to name a few conditions. Additionally, this kind of pain may be attributed to conditions that can occur in people of any age, such as sciatica or degenerative disc disease.

An illustration of a healthy spine and one with spinal osteoarthritis, one cause of back pain.
An illustration of a healthy spine and one with spinal osteoarthritis, one cause of back pain.

Any kind of injury to the lower back can result in sudden lower back pain, though overuse can also result in the same kind of pain. Overusing the muscles, ligaments, and joints in the lower back, such as the sacroiliac and facet joints, can lead to back pain for hours or even days. Exercise or heavy lifting of any kind, especially without using the correct posture, can lead to strains and sprains, including a herniated disc. These can show up without any warning hours after the activity that caused the pain, sometimes making it difficult to determine the cause. Of course, fractures of the bone are usually caused by serious accidents that result in sudden lower back pain right away, making the source quite obvious.

Ice packs can help with lower back pain.
Ice packs can help with lower back pain.

Aging can make sudden lower back pain more common due to the various conditions that can bring it on. For example, spinal stenosis causes the spinal cord to become narrow, leading to back pain quite quickly. Joint degeneration, such as osteoarthritis, is another cause of sudden lower back pain. It may occur in the joints of the back, particularly the facet joints, or it may affect the hips instead. This can cause a limp, which eventually also leads to back pain, making osteoarthritis harmful to the back no matter where it occurs.

Injuries, such as sprains or tears, are common causes of sudden lower back pain.
Injuries, such as sprains or tears, are common causes of sudden lower back pain.

Sciatica is another common cause of sudden lower back pain, as it usually results in sharp, shooting pains in the back, legs, and buttocks. It is an inflammation of the sciatic nerve, which runs from the lower back area to the legs. It can occur in those of any age, and is typically worse after long periods of standing or even sitting down. Degenerative disc disease is another issue that can be experienced at any age. This can be caused either by an injury involving sudden twisting of the back, or natural wear and tear on the spinal cord, and usually gets worse after sudden movements of the body.

Lower back pain caused by sciatica can occur in people of any age.
Lower back pain caused by sciatica can occur in people of any age.
Lifting heavy objects without correct posture may lead to sudden lower back pain.
Lifting heavy objects without correct posture may lead to sudden lower back pain.
Symptoms of sudden lower back pain on one side can result from a chronic health condition.
Symptoms of sudden lower back pain on one side can result from a chronic health condition.
Sudden lower back pain could be the result of a slipped disc.
Sudden lower back pain could be the result of a slipped disc.

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