What causes non-specific back pain?

Non-specific back pain is a common problem, with 1 in 6 Australians reporting the problem and 4 out of 5 experiencing it at some time in their life. Here are some common causes.

September 9, 2021

For at least 9 in 10 people, back pain is not caused by any condition and is referred to as non-specific back pain.

Non-specific back pain can result from a range of factors, such as:  

  • Poor posture
  • Weak back and abdominal muscles
  • Muscle strain or spasm
  • Sitting for too long, such as at a desk or in a car
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Being an unhealthy weight

Things that may help:

  • Exercise. This improves your posture and helps your muscles to support your spine. Exercises that can help prevent back pain include:
  • Low-impact aerobic exercise (such as walking, tai chi or swimming)
  • Strengthening exercises, such as lifting weights, climbing stairs, or hiking  
  • Stretching exercises, such as Pilates and yoga
  • Maintaining a good posture at home, in your workplace, or in your car. Try not to slouch, and use equipment that supports your back, such as a lumbar support or footstool if you need one.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight is also important.  
  • Safe lifting in your home or workplace. Whenever you pick up a heavy load, squat down, hold the object close to your body, and lift with your legs.
  • Avoid high heels — wearing high heels can place strain on your back.

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