Lower Back Nerve Pain Causes

No one is immune to lower back nerve pain. In fact, lower back nerve pain is so common that you or someone you know will experience it at some point, if not already. The American Physical Therapy Association says that at any given time, one in four Americans will have experienced back pain within the past three months. 

That’s a lot of achy backs!

Causes of Lower Back Nerve Pain

A variety of problems can cause lower back nerve pain. Some common root causes include: sciatica, herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, facet joint dysfunction, osteoarthritis and even a fall or collision during sports. 


Lower back nerve pain and sciatica are often related — and very painful. Sciatica can cause back pain, along with weakness and numbness that radiates along the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body, extending from the lower back and traveling down the leg to the feet. When the sciatic nerve is “pinched,” it can result in sharp and intense pain due to the pressure placed upon the root of the lumbar nerve

Herniated Disc

The center of your lumbar disc is filled with a jelly-like substance that can break through the outer layer and compress a nerve root. Since disc walls have many nerve fibers, any tears through the wall can cause intense pain in the lower back. This is known as a lumbar herniated disc.

Degenerative Disc Disease

As people age, lumbar discs lose hydration and end up wearing down, known as degenerative disc disease. This lack of cushion leaves the disc susceptible to injury during impact. 

Facet Joint Dysfunction

Facet joint dysfunction may cause pain, muscle weakness and even numbness. If the cartilage of the facet joint is damaged, it can lead to inflammation and lower back pain due to aggravating the nerve roots that innervate these joints.


Osteoarthritis is associated with aging and is a condition that gradually progresses. Patients suffering from osteoarthritis deal with worn down discs and facet joints, causing back pain, swelling and instability. 

Fall or Trauma

Any trauma or compression fracture, such as a car accident or a fall in sports, can also result in lower back nerve pain.

How Physical Therapy Can Help Lower Back Nerve Pain

Whether your lower back nerve pain is due to a sports injury, herniated disc or a nerve problem, like sciatica, working with a physical therapist can help restore your back. Specific courses of treatment will depend upon individual diagnosis, but in the early stages of lower back nerve pain, the main goal is to relieve pain. As the condition improves, therapists will progress on to other treatments. A combination of manual therapy and progressive exercises have been demonstrated to be the best choice of intervention to be on the road to recovery as quickly as possible. 

If you’re ready to fix the root problems of nerve pain in your lower back, give us a call at 1-877-304-3000 to schedule your no-obligation appointment at one of our 23 convenient New Jersey clinics

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