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What can cause sudden back pain?

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Quick Answer

In younger adults between the ages of 30 and 60, the most common causes of sudden back pain are muscle strains. Other common causes include herniated disks or degenerative disk disease, according to Spine-Health.

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Full Answer

Muscles, ligaments and bones work together to provide support for the human body. In the back, many of these muscles attach to the spine. Stretching the muscles too far causes tiny tears in the tissue and decreases the stability of the spine, leading to pain. Common causes of muscle strains include lifting heavy objects, repetitive use of the muscle, extreme physical exertion and falls. However, WebMD indicates that emotional stress or a cough can also cause back strains.

Disks separate and cushion the vertebrae of the spine. They have a soft center with a harder outer layer. When the outer layer is injured and the softer center pushes outside its normal space, the disk is herniated. The pressure the displaced center causes on the nerves that pass through the space leads to lower back pain. In some cases, a wrong move causes the pressure on the nerve, leading to sudden pain. However, some individuals have herniated disks with no pain. In most cases, the disk heals without surgery, according to Mayo Clinic.

Degenerative disk disease is a part of the aging process. The disks become less elastic and collapse, so they are not able to provide the cushioning between vertebrae. Smoking and repeated heavy lifting contribute to this cause of sudden back pain, according to WebMD.

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