What Causes Non-Specific Low Back Pain and How is It Diagnosed?

What Causes Non-Specific Low Back Pain and How is It Diagnosed? Blog


Chronic low back pain (LBP) can range from a mild annoyance to a debilitating pain that keeps you off your feet. LBP is one of the primary complaints that sends Americans to the doctor and keeps them home from work.

However, low back pain is a symptom, not a disease, and it may have many causes. While some low back pain may have a detectable cause such as a herniated disc or stenosis, the most common form of low back pain is non-specific in nature, meaning there is no discernible structural cause.

Causes of Non-Specific LBP

Most non-specific LBP is made worse by certain motions, postures or loads, which may lend insight into its root cause. Because LBP is specific to the individual, there is no single treatment that can be broadly applied.

Some things that may contribute to chronic non-specific LBP include:

  • Poor postural habits
  • Inefficient movement mechanics
  • Imbalanced muscle tension
  • Ergonomically inefficient work station
  • Weak core and low back muscles
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Excess body weight
  • Overall physical deconditioning
  • Excessive muscle loading with inadequate recovery time

In rare cases, non-specific LBP can be caused by hyperalgesia, a heightened state of sensitivity where the pain threshold of the Central Nervous System (CNS) is lowered, and a certain level of pain is maintained, even after the initial injury or cause of pain has healed.


In cases of non-specific LBP, imaging with MRI is useless, since there are no structural anomalies to be found. Yet patients suffering from non-specific LBP are often subjected to MRI as a diagnosis of exclusion aimed at ruling out more serious underlying conditions.

Unwarranted use of MRI unnecessarily subjects patients to ionizing radiation, which is especially harmful for younger women of childbearing age. Some studies suggest that patients who undergo MRI are more likely to receive surgical interventions that do not resolve LBP, and which can lead to further spinal degeneration.

An effective diagnosis depends on multiple factors, and your back pain specialist should be willing to explore all pathways that lead to resolution. This may include:

  • computerized gait analysis
  • thorough postural analysis
  • assessment of strength and range of motion
  • review of daily activities and lifestyle factors
  • comprehensive health history review,
  • other diagnostic approaches geared to getting at the source of pain

Treatment for Non-Specific LBP

Treatment for LBP should be individualized, and may involve a combination of strategies. Some possible treatment approaches include:

  • physical therapy
  • therapeutic massage
  • chiropractic manipulation
  • therapeutic Pilates exercises
  • acupuncture
  • extracorporeal shock wave therapy (ESWT)
  • computerized gait retraining
  • alternative therapies such at Vojta, DNS, Redcord therapy, and more

Back Pain Treatment in NYC

NYDNRehab is the place to go for back pain in NYC. Our back pain specialists have access to the most cutting edge technologies for diagnosis and treatment, all under one roof. Our team of professionals work together to ensure you receive the very best treatment available for your back pain.

At NYDNRehab, we are dedicated to getting at the source of your back problem, not just treating the symptoms. Our skilled therapists know how to accurately assess and diagnose your back pain, and create individualized solutions for treatment. With the latest technologies and methods at our fingertips, NYDNRehab is fully equipped to treat your back pain at its source, so you can return to your active lifestyle.


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