Root Causes of Back Pain

Back pain is a prevalent and often debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Whether it’s a dull ache, sharp stabbing sensation, or persistent discomfort, back pain can significantly impact your daily life and overall well-being. While it’s tempting to seek quick fixes or temporary relief, understanding the root causes of back pain is crucial for effectively managing and preventing it in the long term.


A significant portion of those experiencing chronic back pain suffer specifically from low back or sciatic pain. According to a survey conducted among US adults in 2022, approximately 28% reported suffering from chronic low back or sciatic pain, with a striking 44% of those individuals enduring such pain for five years or more. Despite these alarming statistics, the etiology of back pain remains largely elusive, with around 85% of cases categorized as having an “unknown etiology.” However, it is our opinion that this classification may stem from an oversimplified approach to understanding back pain, which fails to acknowledge its dynamic and multifaceted nature.

In fact, the prevalence of back pain recurrence suggests that conventional methods often focus on symptom management rather than addressing underlying root causes. Research shows that the number one risk factor for future back pain is previous back pain which highlights the inadequacy of simplified recovery approaches. While these methods may provide temporary relief, they often overlook the complexities of back pain’s origin and fail to promote comprehensive recovery and prevention strategies. Therefore, a nuanced and comprehensive assessment of back pain is imperative in order to unravel its diverse root causes and develop effective interventions that address not only symptoms but also underlying contributors to ensure long-term relief and spinal health. Let’s look at the different factors that can contribute to back pain:

  1. Poor Posture: One of the most common culprits behind back pain is poor posture. Prolonged periods of slouching, hunching over electronic devices, or sitting in awkward positions can strain the muscles and ligaments of the back, leading to stiffness and discomfort. Improving posture through ergonomic adjustments, mindful awareness, and targeted exercises can help reduce and sometimes even completely alleviate back pain caused by poor posture.
  1. Muscle Strain and Overuse: Overexertion, repetitive movements, or lifting heavy objects improperly can cause muscle strain and overuse injuries in the back. These injuries often result in acute pain and inflammation, making it difficult to perform daily activities comfortably.  Excessive lifting is also commonly associated with arthritic changes such as stenosis, osteoarthritis, and bony growths. Practicing proper lifting techniques, incorporating rest breaks during repetitive tasks, and gradually increasing activity levels can reduce the risk of muscle strain and overuse injuries.
  1. Sedentary Lifestyle: Leading a sedentary lifestyle characterized by prolonged periods of sitting or inactivity can weaken the muscles that support the spine, leading to imbalances and instability. Additionally, sitting for extended periods can contribute to tight hip flexors, hamstrings, and lower back muscles. This is likely why excessive sitting is commonly associated with disc degeneration and higher risk for disc injuries such as bulges and herniations. Incorporating regular physical activity, stretching, and standing breaks into your routine can counteract the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle and promote healthy spinal hygiene.
  1. Spinal Misalignment: Misalignments or subluxations in the spine can place pressure on the nerves, causing localized or radiating pain in the back and other areas of the body. These misalignments may result from traumatic injuries, repetitive stress, poor posture, or degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis. Seeking chiropractic care, physical therapy, or other forms of manual therapy can help realign the spine, relieve nerve compression, and alleviate back pain associated with spinal misalignments.
  1. Underdeveloped Core Function: The core muscles play a crucial role in supporting the spine and maintaining proper posture. Weakness in these muscles can lead to imbalances, instability, and increased stress on the spine, contributing to chronic pain and discomfort. Strengthening the core through targeted exercises can help alleviate back pain and improve spinal stability and alignment.
  1. Degenerative Conditions: Degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, and spinal stenosis can contribute to chronic back pain as the structures of the spine deteriorate over time. These conditions often result from age-related wear and tear, genetics, or lifestyle factors such as obesity and smoking. While degenerative conditions may not be entirely preventable, adopting healthy lifestyle habits, engaging in regular exercise, and seeking appropriate medical treatment can help delay their onset or progression, manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
  1. Emotional Stress: Emotional stress and tension can manifest physically as muscle tightness, stiffness, and pain, including in the back. Chronic stress can exacerbate existing back pain or increase susceptibility to new episodes of pain. Incorporating stress management techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques can help reduce emotional stress and its impact on back pain.
  1. Acute Accident or Injury: Traumatic incidents, such as car accidents or falls, can damage spinal structures, including discs, vertebrae, and ligaments, leading to ongoing pain and dysfunction. While immediate treatment may alleviate initial symptoms, unresolved issues or complications can persist, triggering chronic back pain that requires comprehensive management and rehabilitation to address effectively.


Chronic back pain is a complex and multifaceted condition that often arises from a combination of contributing factors rather than a single cause. The human body is remarkably resilient and capable of adapting to various stressors over time. However, combinations of the stressors listed above can gradually overwhelm the body’s adaptive capacity. While individuals may not experience significant pain or discomfort initially (or even for years!), one of two scenarios often happens.

In some cases, the cumulative effect of these factors can eventually push the body beyond its limits, leading to chronic back pain. In other cases, the back back begins after a single incident or activity, and that event gets blamed entirely even though it was likely just the “last straw” after years of other factors playing a role, setting up the body to be effected so “easily.”

Prior to reaching this tipping point, many people may not prioritize ongoing spinal hygiene or address underlying issues, resulting in layers of compensation and adaptation. Once the body exceeds its capacity to adapt, these compensatory mechanisms may no longer be sufficient, and chronic back pain ensues. Therefore, addressing the multifaceted nature of chronic back pain requires a comprehensive approach that considers all contributing factors and implements strategies to restore balance, alleviate pain, and promote long-term spinal health.


At Life Moves MT, we offer a comprehensive approach to treating back pain, combining various modalities to address acute pain and support long-term healing and wellness. Here’s how our approach works:

  • Blended Chiropractic Care with Massage Therapy: Our integrated approach combines chiropractic adjustments with therapeutic massage to provide targeted relief during the acute treatment phase. With gentler and more specific adjustments, we typically find we can create more change more quickly, and with more comfort.Then in maintenance care, our layered approach is ideal to promote healthy spinal hygiene.
  • Spinal Decompression Therapy: We utilize state-of-the-art spinal decompression therapy to effectively treat conditions such as bulging and herniated discs, as well as degenerative disc disease. This non-invasive treatment gently creates healthier disc spaces, relieving pressure on spinal nerves and facilitating the body’s natural healing process.
  • Frequency-Specific Microcurrent (FSM): FSM is utilized for pain relief and to support the reduction of inflammation and the healing of injured disc tissues. This advanced therapy helps address pain at the cellular level, promoting faster recovery and improved function.
  • Functional Movement Assessments: For the most complete recovery, we offer Functional Movement Assessments, which evaluate range-of-motion, balance, posture, and muscle performance. This allows us to identify areas of weakness or dysfunction and develop a customized Corrective Exercise program tailored to your specific needs. With chronic back pain, this often involves developing a functional core by relearning basic movements. Remember, you don’t want to repeat what got you here in the first place!
  • Corrective Exercise Sessions: These sessions cover how to perform your recommended movements effectively. Whether you’re at our clinic, the gym, or at home, our expert team will guide you through proper technique and provide personalized exercises to address your unique challenges and goals.
  • Wellness Habit Coaching: Beyond physical treatments, our Wellness Habit Coaching focuses on behavioral changes that break the cycles contributing to spinal injuries. We provide guidance and support to help you adopt healthier habits, improve posture, and prevent future injuries, promoting long-term spinal health and overall well-being.

With our comprehensive approach, we aim to not only alleviate back pain but also address underlying issues and support the body’s natural healing process for a more complete recovery. Making changes to movement patterns, increasing stability and core function, and providing spinal hygiene maintenance care are what allow us to reduce your risk of repeat injuries and provide you with long-lasting relief and improved quality of life.