Muscle pain can affect people of any age, for different reasons. As people get older, the chance of developingTrusted Source lower back pain increases, due to factors such as previous occupation and degenerative disk disease. Lower back pain may be linked to the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, lower back muscles, abdominal and pelvic internal organs, and the skin around the lumbar area.
The pain may come on suddenly, as a sharp stitch on the left side of your back. Or it may throb to life on your right side, growing slowly worse each day. No matter its exact location, though, one thing is sure: Back pain isn’t fun—but it’s a familiar foe. Some 80% of the population in the U.S. will have a back problem in their lifetime, and Americans spend upwards of $50 billion a year treating it, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
Injuries to the spinal structures can happen in the muscles, discs, or joints, and make up the most common cause of back pain on just one side. They often occur after minor injuries or from an impact in sports or a car accident. Tissue injuries typically cause pain central to the spine, but they can lead to pain entirely on either the right side or the left side of the back. And of tissue injuries overall, muscle strains are the most common cause of lower back pain on one side.
Causes Back pain often develops without a cause that your doctor can identify with a test or an imaging study. Conditions commonly linked to back pain include:
Muscle or ligament strain. Repeated heavy lifting or a sudden awkward movement can strain back muscles and spinal ligaments. If you’re in poor physical condition, constant strain on your back can cause painful muscle spasms.
Bulging or ruptured disks. Disks act as cushions between the bones (vertebrae) in your spine. The soft material inside a disk can bulge or rupture and press on a nerve. However, you can have a bulging or ruptured disk without back pain. Disk disease is often found incidentally when you have spine X-rays for some other reason.
Arthritis. Osteoarthritis can affect the lower back. In some cases, arthritis in the spine can lead to a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, a condition called spinal stenosis.
Osteoporosis. Your spine’s vertebrae can develop painful fractures if your bones become porous and brittle.
Anyone can develop back pain, even children and teens. These factors might put you at greater risk of developing back pain:
Age. Back pain is more common as you get older, starting around age 30 or 40.
Lack of exercise. Weak, unused muscles in your back and abdomen might lead to back pain.
Excess weight. Excess body weight puts extra stress on your back.
Diseases. Some types of arthritis and cancer can contribute to back pain.
Improper lifting. Using your back instead of your legs can lead to back pain.
Psychological conditions. People prone to depression and anxiety appear to have a greater risk of back pain.
Smoking. Smokers have increased rates of back pain. This may occur because smoking prompts more coughing, which can lead to herniated disks. Smoking can also decrease blood flow to the spine and increase the risk of osteoporosis.