The bad news about low back pain is that almost everyone will experience it at some point.

The good news is that it typically gets better with time, said Jonathan Sylvain, DPT, spine rehab program manager at Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network.

“It is extremely common, but low back pain is self-limiting, meaning most individuals get better over time,” said Dr. Sylvain. “An episode of back pain is usually short term and most people make an excellent recovery in one to two months.”

But what’s causing your back to ache?

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Six causes of low back pain

As people age, they may be more susceptible to back problems, primarily due to changes in the body. However, people of all ages can develop back pain.

Sylvain listed the most common causes as:

  • Degenerative disc disease. This disc condition is when wear, over time, narrows the space between joints.
  • Stenosis. The space around the spinal cord or nerves can narrow, putting pressure on those structures.
  • Disc herniation. Discs may rupture or bulge, putting pressure on the nerves in your spine.
  • Arthritis. This results in inflammation of the joints in the spine.
  • Spondylolisthesis. Movement of the vertebrae in the spine can cause pain.
  • Sacroiliac joint dysfunction. If it is out of alignment, this joint between the tail bone and pelvic bone can contribute to discomfort.

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Managing pain

One of the best ways to help relieve pain in your lower back, Sylvain said, is to stay active, even though it is normal to want to avoid moving when your back hurts.

He also said that non-surgical treatment can be very effective, including:

  • Physical therapy
  • Using heat or ice on the affected area
  • Massage
  • Over-the-counter medication
  • Yoga or Pilates if your healthcare provider approves.

Relief in physical therapy

A physical therapist will examine you and develop an individualized exercise program to decrease your pain and improve your mobility and strength so you can return to full function.

“Physical therapists are movement experts who can help you optimize assist you with optimizing your functional capabilities through prescribed exercise, hands-on care and patient education,” Sylvain said. “Every day, we help change pain, strength and range of motion, getting people back to what they enjoy the most.”