Why Does My Back Hurt All of a Sudden?

Nov 03, 2023

Why Does My Back Hurt All of a Sudden?

Unfortunately, pain seems to be a common occurrence in the United States. The CDC recently conducted a pain survey that spanned a three-month period, and results showed that 3 in 5 adults experienced pain during that time. Back pain was the most prevalent type.

The multispecialty team at Coastal Spine, with six locations in New Jersey, diagnoses and relieves back pain with a full range of services designed to meet your needs. 

From physical therapy to interventional pain management to minimally invasive surgical procedures, our treatments focus on restoring your quality of life.

Read more from our team about the causes of sudden back pain and how we can help.

Why is back pain so common?

The spine is a complex structure of bones (vertebrae), intervertebral discs, ligaments, muscles, and nerves. An injury or malfunction in any of these components can lead to pain.

Additionally, the spine supports much of the body’s weight, especially the lumbar (lower back) region, which bears the upper body’s weight. The cervical spine (neck) is the shortest portion of the spine, has a greater range of motion than any other section, and must support the head.

The anatomical complexity and constant demands on the back and neck during your daily routine make the spine susceptible to injury.

What causes sudden back pain?

The most common causes of sudden back pain include:

Muscle strain or ligament sprain

Lifting something too heavy, an abrupt or awkward movement, and poor posture over extended periods can stress muscles and ligaments. Repetitive bending and twisting can also fatigue those soft tissues, making them more prone to back strain.

Herniated disc

Intervertebral discs are cartilaginous structures with a soft inner core that sit between each vertebra in the spine. If the inner material pushes through the outer covering (herniates), it can press on nearby nerves, causing sharp, sudden pain.

Degenerative changes

Osteoarthritis and other degenerative changes can affect the discs, ligaments, facet joints, and other spinal structures. For instance, discs can dry and crack with age, making them more vulnerable to herniation. Ligaments can thicken or stiffen and fail to maintain spinal stability.

While degenerative conditions typically develop over time or with repetitive motion, an awkward twist when lifting or a seemingly simple stumble can cause sudden pain.


Osteoporosis causes bones to weaken and lose density, sometimes triggering a sudden vertebral fracture that’s immediately, sometimes extremely painful.

Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal column narrows, pressing on nearby nerves. That can lead to pain, numbness, or weakness, often in the legs, feet, and back.

Lifestyle factors

Your everyday activities can significantly influence the health of your back. Continuous sitting, especially with poor posture, puts a lot of stress on the back. A sedentary lifestyle, without regular exercise to strengthen the back and core muscles, increases the risk of back pain.

Can back pain be prevented?

You can’t always prevent back pain, but you can take steps to protect your spinal health, including:

  • Practicing appropriate lifting techniques
  • Strengthening the abdominal and other core muscles that support the back
  • Increasing physical activity with back-friendly routines such as walking or cycling
  • Correcting poor posture

Losing excess weight, especially abdominal weight that increases the load on your spine, can also help prevent back pain.

Smoking increases your risk of back pain since it affects circulation, decreasing blood flow and the exchange of nutrients that discs, ligaments, and other spinal structures require for optimal health.

If you’re experiencing back pain and want to understand why or are having problems with frequent episodes, we’re happy to help. 

Schedule an evaluation at Coastal Spine today by calling one of our convenient locations or requesting an appointment online.