Lower back pain affects millions of people each year. The pain can be so severe that it disrupts regular daily activities. Lower back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work and one of the top three reasons for doctor visits. While many occurrences of back pain last a few days, others can last weeks or even months. The pain can last even longer if nothing is done about it.

Acute low back pain can be a result of an injury or trauma, and it can also be caused by arthritis. Low back pain that is chronic generally progresses with time, with pain lasting longer than three months. The cause of chronic low back pain can be more difficult to determine.

Here are the top 8 causes of low back pain:

1. Sciatica

Sciatica is not actually a disease; it is a description of symptoms. These symptoms can include numbness, pain, and muscle weakness that usually travels down one or both legs. Sciatica is caused by injury or pressure to the sciatic nerve. The pain from sciatica can be disabling, and certain movements and positions can make the condition even worse.

2. Degenerative disc disease

Fairly common, degenerative disc disease is a cause of back pain that can usually be treated. Symptoms include radiating pain (pain that goes down your legs) and tight hamstrings. When the lumbar discs between the vertebrae begin to break down, the damaged disc can cause both inflammation and slight instability in the lower back. Degenerative disc disease can affect people as young as 18.

3. Osteoporosis

A bone disease that causes a decrease in bone density and strength, osteoporosis is a major cause of low back pain among older people, particularly elderly women. Weak bones can result in compression fractures, which are the most common type of fracture caused by osteoporosis. Spinal fractures can also occur when spines are stressed with constant bending and pressure or even the slightest movement.

4. Obesity

Studies have shown that obesity increases the risk of low back pain. There is an association between being overweight and suffering from low back pain mostly because of the way the body fat is distributed. Excessive fat particularly in the abdominal area seems to be a cause of lower back pain. Obese people are twice as likely to have chronic pain as people of a normal weight. Low back pain that is chronic in nature can be caused by extra weight that adds pressure on the spine. This added pressure can also increase the risk of degenerative disk disease and herniated disk.

 5. Backpacks

Low back pain can be caused by an overloaded backpack that strains the muscles in the back. Injuries related to backpacks are thought to be common in school-aged children as well as college students. Alternatives to backpacks include storing books in lockers between classes and using a backpack that totes on wheels. Low back pain from backpacks is not limited to children; it can also be a problem for hikers. Backpackers can try to reduce their load and use trekking poles to avoid low back pain.

6. Wrong mattress/pillow

Believe it or not, using the wrong pillow and/or sleeping on the wrong mattress in certain postures can lead to low back pain. A good mattress has a good inner support, and a good pillow gives support to your head and neck without hurting them. Lying on your back and lying on your side are two of the least stressful positions for sleeping, especially when support pillows are used.

7. Lifting heavy objects

Using incorrect lifting techniques can be detrimental to anyone, and it can be especially damaging to those with existing back problems. When you lift any load—even a light one—it can put stress on your lower back. Practice proper lifting techniques such as standing with your feet apart and bending your knees can help to lessen the chance of back injuries.

8. Injury

Low back pain can be caused by an injury that strains the ligaments and muscles in your back. They can be stretched entirely too far, which causes little tears in the muscle tissue of the lower back. The weakened muscles lead to a less stable spinal column. Sports injuries can also lead to lower back pain: At least one fifth of all injuries that occur in sports involve back injuries.

Back injuries are one of the most common issues affecting people today. Knowing the main causes can help you to avoid some of the issues in the future. Make sure you start taking care of your back now so that you will be able to enjoy a back pain free life in the future.