What are the Most Common Causes of Back Pain at a Young age?

Apr 29, 2022

According to a report published in 2019, 58.9% percent of adults living in the US suffer from pain of one type or the other. Out of these people, the most number of patients are of back pain i.e., 39%. There are a number of reasons why people start experiencing back pain at a very young age. It has to do with their lifestyles, habits, physical activities, disc problems, joint problems, and postures. In what follows, we have explained the most common causes of back pain at a young age.

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc refers to the condition in which the material inside the disc herniates or squeezes out putting pressure on the neighboring nerves. As a result, nerves get pinched and patients feel pain, numbness, and weakness near the infected area. 

There are several reasons why people develop herniated disc at a very young age;

  • It can be due to an injury from an accident
  • It can be due to lifting heavy objects or putting stress on the back
  • Being physically inactive is also one of the common causes of a herniated disc in young people

A Herniated disc can occur anywhere along the spine, however, it is most commonly found in the lower back. The back pain due to a herniated disc is usually accompanied by pain in other areas like the calf, thigh, and buttock as well. It is also possible that you do not feel any symptoms at all and still have the herniated disc therefore, the only way to tell if you have herniated disc or not is by conducting an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) of the suspected area. As far as the treatments are concerned, surgery is normally not required and the pain caused by the herniated disc vanishes within a couple of months. However, if you feel that the pain is traveling down to your legs and to nearby body parts, perhaps it is time to see a doctor.

Degenerative Disc

It is also known as Juvenile Degenerative Disc and is often confused with a herniated disc. Degenerative disc disease is a long-term condition in which the fluid in the disc dries out causing a lack of cushioning between the bones of your spine. On the contrary, in the herniated disc the fluid is present for cushioning but it creates a bulge due to injury or wrong movement. Patients with degenerative disc feel as if the bone is rubbing on bone within the spine. It makes the body movement hard and causes persistent lower back pain. 

With aging, people start developing signs of the degenerative disc as the fluid starts to dry out in the early 40s or later 50s. However, young people can also get a degenerative disc due to genetic disposition or wear and tear of the body. Athletes who are involved in combat sports or weight lifting are more prone to degenerate their discs in their early 30s or 40s.

You might also want to read: Is Disc Replacement Surgery Safe?

Back Pain due to Strains and Sprains

A business man suffering from back pain

Strains and sprains are the result of undue pressure on your muscles and overstretching of the ligaments. A strain is different from a sprain in terms of the area affected. If you have overstretched a tendon, it’s a strain whereas, in the case of a sprain, one or more ligaments are overstretched. Another difference is that sprain causes bruises and strain leads to muscle spasms. It normally happens to the people who are involved in exercises that are overly strenuous. Such exercises involve lifting heavy weights or putting sudden pressure on the spine. In such situations, the spine of the person is normally safe, it is the muscle and the ligaments that are injured.

In most cases, surgery is not required and patients can be treated with physical therapies. The doctor may also recommend some painkillers to make the pain go away. Although it depends upon the level of damage, in most cases patients recover within 2 weeks of the injury. During this time period, every kind of exercise that is not recommended by the doctor should be avoided. Surgical treatment is not generally required, however, if the muscle is completely ruptured or the tendon is torn, surgery becomes inevitable.

Poor Posture Causing Back Pain

A business woman sitting in a chair with hand on her back showing signs of back pain

Young people are more likely to develop back problems because of their posture and everyday activities like walking, sitting, bending, lifting, and standing than any other reason. People nowadays spend a big chunk of their time in front of computer screens for their work or study. If a proper posture is not maintained during this time, it can lead to serious back and neck problems. Following are some common poor postural habits;

  • Slouching on an office chair or couch
  • Lifting heavy objects without bending knees
  • Using a laptop while lying in bed
  • Running imbalances
  • Poor form in the gym during weight lifting

These habits lead to all kinds of back problems including herniated disc, degenerative disc, and spondylosis. Back conditions arising due to poor posture are treated with exercises and physical therapies. However, if the required adjustments are not done to the posture, it can lead to a serious medical condition to be treated by surgical procedure.

When You Should See the Doctor

You can try at-home remedies for your back pain if it is not very severe and does not last for more than 3 days. However, if the pain persists and is accompanied by other symptoms like fever, numbness, trauma, tingling, and loss of bladder function, it is perhaps better to consult a doctor. You can go to your doctor for diagnosis and he/she will tell you if you need to see a spine specialist or a neurosurgeon for further treatment.

See Dr. Moksha Ranasinghe for Back Pain

Experiencing persistent back pain at a young age can be a sign of injury to the spinal cord. It is important that you timely see a doctor for early diagnosis to prevent yourself from bigger trouble. Here at Southern California Brain & Spine Surgery, Dr. Moksha Ranasinghe provides healthcare services to patients suffering from Brain and Spine diseases. She is an experienced neurosurgeon who has treated hundreds of patients over the years. You can get in touch with her by filling out the contact form or calling (213) 369-4583