Muscle deconditioning – also called muscle atrophy – is one of the most common causes of chronic back pain. Muscle deconditioning happens when your back muscles lack the strength and stability to support you properly, leading to wear and tear over time.
Some deconditioning naturally occurs as we age – which we’ll get to a little later – but lack of physical activity is the biggest contributor.
If your back is hurting or you recently injured yourself, you’ve probably started taking it easy or avoiding certain activities. In the short-term, modifying your activities or avoiding things like heavy lifting are often recommended to help your back heal.
Improper posture or body mechanics
Bad habits can stress your spine and strain the soft tissue surrounding it. And over time, this repeated stress can break down the structural components of the spine.
While posture or body mechanics are part of every movement you make (or don’t make), your work environment can have a big impact.
For office workers, when you sit at your desk for long stretches without stretching, it can cause your hip flexors to tighten. Over time, this can cause hips and hamstrings to weaken, leading to lower back pain.
Genetics and aging
As we get older, our bodies change – and aches and pains can become more common. We lose muscle strength and disc space within our spine.
Of course, this natural aging process can be sped up by the other chronic pain-causing conditions we talk about in this post.
Driving or sitting for long periods of time
Repetitive motion activities such as walking, bending over, exercising or typing
Lifting both small and heavy objects (including kids)
Sleeping in an odd position or on an old mattress