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Your back is a complex structure made up of bones, muscles, nerves and joints. This can often make it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the pain.
Most cases of back pain aren’t caused by serious damage or disease but by minor sprains, strains or injuries, or a pinched or irritated nerve.
These types of back pain can be triggered by everyday activities at home or at work, or they can develop gradually over time.
Possible causes of back pain include:
- Bending awkwardly or for long periods
- Lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling heavy objects
- Slouching in chairs
- Twisting awkwardly
- Driving or sitting in a hunched position or for long periods without taking a break overusing the muscles – for example, during sport or repetitive movements (repetitive strain injury).
Back pain sometimes develops suddenly for no apparent reason. For example, you may wake up one morning with back pain and have no idea what’s caused it.
Who’s most at risk?
Certain things can increase your chances of developing back pain. These include:
Being overweight – the extra weight puts pressure on the spine; you can use the BMI healthy weight calculator to find out if you need to lose weight
Smoking – this may be the result of tissue damage in the back caused by smoking or the fact that people who smoke tend to have unhealthier lifestyles than people who don’t smoke; read more about stopping smoking
Being pregnant – the extra weight of carrying a baby can place additional strain on the back; read more about backache in pregnancy
long-term use of medication known to weaken bones – such as corticosteroids.