“I can barely move! What on earth is causing my back pain?” Osteopath Dr Oliver Thomson explains

Why do I have back pain?

Low Back Pain (LBP) is extremely common with approximately 540 million people being affected at any one time across the world. For many people, it can be a very worrying, distressing and disabling condition, but fortunately it is rarely due to a serious cause and the vast majority of people recover within just a few weeks or months.

One of the most common questions I’m asked by patients is ‘what is causing back pain?’ While this is a perfectly understandable question, it can be tricky to answer for several reasons.

Whats causing my back pain
Back Pain – Chiropractor Hampstead NW3

It’s complicated

Firstly, traditionally it was (and sometimes still is) a common belief that ‘structural factors’ are the main reasons people develop back pain. For example, it has been commonly thought that structural or physical characteristics of our bodies such as the shape, curvature and alignment of our spines (i.e posture), or tightness of certain muscles or weakness of ‘core’ muscles were the main culprits causing back pain.

However, now after decades of research we now know that these play very little role into why someone might develop back pain. We now think of back pain as being due to a range of different factors which are individual to us and vary at any point in our lives.


Hurt doesn’t equal harm..

Rather than thinking back pain is due to damage or disruption to the structural or physical tissues of our spines (e.g. the discs, ligaments or muscles), the latest and most accurate way of thinking about common low back pain one of sensitivity. The various tissues in our backs can become sensitive and sore for a variety of physical and non-physical reasons. Physical reasons include too much exercise, too little exercise/movement, taking up new or unaccustomed exercise/sports or working in the same/awkward position for a prolonged period of time. Non-physical factors which are known to contribute to the cause of back pain are things like poor sleep, increased stress or our fears and beliefs about back pain.

Whats causing my back pain
Back Pain – Osteopath Hampstead NW3

Get help to figure out what triggers your back pain

In most cases back pain is due to a combination of different physical and non-physical factors so trying to pin down that one thing which is the cause of back pain is not possible nor very helpful as treatment is often (mis)directed to address and treat that single cause. A more effective way is to meet with one of our musculoskeletal health professionals who will spend time with you to better understand what the unique set of factors which contributing to your back pain and then work out a plan together on how to be approach treatment.


If you’re experiencing back pain – call, email, or book your appointment online with one of our expert osteopaths, physiotherapists, or chiropractors.