Chronic back pain

Almost 80% of adults experience back pain at one point or the other in their lives. Back pain doesn’t discriminate between genders either and is the most common reason for missed work days and job-related disabilities.

The pain can be of slow onset and increase in intensity with time (age-related changes in the spine) or of sudden onset (usually after an accident or strain/sprain) or a dull constant nagging ache. Chronic back pain is usually precipitated by ageing, sedentary lifestyles, weight gain, too little exercise, occupational hazards, genetics, etc. It can involve a disc problem, a joint problem or an irritated nerve root.

Most back pains are short-term and last from a few days to a few weeks and resolve on their own with a little self-care. Sub-acute back pains last from 4-12 weeks while the chronic back pains last longer than 12 weeks. Depending on the cause, treatment can sometimes help in resolving chronic back pain, but in a few other cases, even after medical and surgical treatment, there is no improvement. Such people might even suffer some levels of depression, adding to the physical and emotional suffering.

Some of the common causes of chronic back pain include:


This is a degenerative joint disease that’s often associated with ageing. It results from wear and tear of the disc and facet joints, resulting in pain, inflammation, instability and some level of stenosis.


Abnormal curvatures of the spine like scoliosis or kyphosis eventually lead to the breakdown of the discs and facet joints, resulting in chronic back pain.

Degenerative disc disease

With increasing age, the discs in-between the vertebra lose hydration and begin to dry out. This could lead to tears in the disc, leading to pain, disc collapse or herniation.

Lumbar herniated disc

The jelly-like proteinaceous substance within the lumbar disc can ooze out and trigger irritation, inflammation or compression of surrounding nerve roots. This results in chronic back pain too.


This arises when one vertebra slips over the adjacent vertebra, resulting in pain. This can lead to instability in the back along with compression of nerves.

Spinal stenosis

This results from the narrowing of the spinal canal where the nerve roots are to be found. The condition can arise at different levels, resulting in chronic back pain.

Joint Dysfunctions

The joints are richly innervated by nerve roots and any dysfunction in features such as the sacroiliac joint or the facet joint can result in disc pain.

Other causes of back pain include compression fractures or dislocations of the spine due to trauma.

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