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What Can Cause Mechanical Back Pain And How Is It Treated?

Mechanical back pain is most commonly the lower back, occurring as a result of strained muscles of the back. The vertebral column is supported by muscles and soft tissues.1 Undue stress on these muscles and soft tissues can damage the muscular support.

Mechanical back pain can be short term (acute) or long lasting (chronic) in nature and may be commonly seen in young individuals.

Mechanical Back Pain

What Can Cause Mechanical Back Pain?

Mechanical back pain is generally caused by mechanical problems in the bones, joints, muscles and tissues related to lumbar spine. Some causes of mechanical back pain include:

  • Traumatic injury to vertebral bodies and joints.
  • Muscle or ligament sprain due to falls, blows or accidents.
  • Strain or spasm of the back muscles due to abnormal posture or lifting heavy weights.
  • Intervertebral disc prolapse or herniation can cause mechanical back pain.
  • Mechanical fractures and other injuries to the vertebral bodies.
  • Strenuous activities or sports that cause damage to the joints and muscles of the back.

Sometimes, certain congenital disorders or deformities of the back can make the area more vulnerable to mechanical back pain. Kyphosis, scoliosis and similar deformities, if severe in condition can increase the risk of injuries and back pain.

Symptoms of Mechanical Back Pain

Mechanical back pain is more commonly seen as a low back pain.1 Mechanical Back Pain is often felt in the back region, around the muscles surrounding the back, hips and the buttocks. Back pain may be dull aching, as if muscles were stiff or can occur suddenly making it difficult to move.

One of the symptoms of Mechanical back pain is that the pain may sometimes, even radiate to the buttocks, thighs, legs and to the feet. This commonly occurs, when the sciatic nerve supplying the legs, gets compressed, resulting in pain in the back of thighs and legs. Such pain may be associated with numbness and tingling in the legs and feet. Occasionally, burning sensation or changes in feeling of hot or cold may also be felt.

Pain is worse on bending forward, twisting the back, lifting weights, sitting or standing for long and over exertion. Pain may be relieved by resting on the back, applying heat or cold compresses and with therapeutic physical exercise.

Diagnosis of Mechanical Back Pain

Mechanical back pain needs to be thoroughly evaluated taking into consideration the medical history and the presenting complaints. A detailed history or injuries, accidents, surgeries and history of any medical disorders needs to be taken.

Clinical examination of the painful back region may reveal tenderness in the area. Mechanical back pain, as against the inflammatory back pain may have no signs of inflammation.

Investigations like X-rays and MRI may be done to identify fractures, changes in the bone and signs of injury, muscle or ligament strain and nerve injury. If there are other associated symptoms, which need to be ruled out, additional tests may be ordered.2

What is the Treatment for Mechanical Back Pain?

What Is The Treatment For Mechanical Back Pain?

Treatment of mechanical back pain usually includes rest for a specified period along with pain relieving medicines and muscle relaxants. Bed rest is usually recommended only for few days, till the muscle spasms and severe pain subsides.

Ice pack or cold compresses may be advised during acute phase of mechanical back pain to relieve muscular strain. Warm compresses may be recommended to relax tensed muscles. Alternate cold and warm compresses also help to provide relief in mechanical back pain and should be practiced as advised by the physician.

Physical Therapy for Mechanical Back Pain: PT and movement may be advised after the initial pain reduces. Physical activity promotes better healing of the strained muscles and improves blood circulation. Physical therapy and rehabilitation techniques help in relieving muscle strain and reducing mechanical back pain.

Resuming work and performing regular activities following mechanical back pain depend on the severity of the condition. Most of the cases of back pain recover in few days or weeks and regular activities can be taken up. However, it is better to avoid strenuous physical activities, bending and lifting heavy weights if one is suffering from mechanical back pain. It is advisable to seek medical opinion before involving in sports, recreational activities and adventure games.

Further episodes of back pain can be prevented by following a healthy routine, regular physical exercises and a healthy diet. Avoid smoking, limit alcohol, drink more water and maintain weight to remain healthy.

Exercises for Mechanical Back Pain

Exercises for mechanical back pain should be performed under supervision and as advised by the physician.

Find some of the best back strengthening exercises that can be helpful for mechanical back pain.

Lie on back with knees raised and feet on the floor and perform the following:

  • Static Back Exercise – Press the low back region, so that it touches the floor; hold and release.
  • Pelvic Bridging – Raise your hip and pelvic portion, hold and release.
  • Knee to chest – Bend one knee and bring it close to touch the chest. Repeat the same with other knee. Perform the same with both knees together.

Cat-Cow Stretch – Lie on all fours. Tighten the back to form a curve of the back and then release.

Walking in swimming pool and aquatic exercises also help in relieving mechanical back pain and should be performed as advised.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 21, 2019

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