If your back hurts when you bend over, you should assess the severity of the pain. If you’re experiencing minor pain, it may be due to a muscle spasm or strain. If you’re experiencing serious pain, you may be suffering from a herniated disc or other back injury.

Your spine and back are delicate parts of your body that can be affected by many different factors. Some of the reasons your back could hurt when you bend over include:

Muscle spasms

Muscle spasms or cramps are quite common. They can happen at any time of the day, but especially during exercise or in the days following a workout. They are commonly caused by:

Muscle spasms in the lower back often occur when you are bent over and lifting something, but they can happen during any movement involving your lower body.

Treatment includes stretching, massage, and application of ice or heat.

Strained muscle

A strained or pulled muscle occurs when a muscle is overstretched or torn. It’s commonly caused by

  • physical activity
  • overuse
  • lack of flexibility

If you are suffering from a strained muscle in your lower back, you should apply ice when the you first notice the pain. After two to three days of icing, apply heat. Take it easy for a few days and then begin to gently exercise and stretch the muscle. Your doctor might recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, naproxen, or ibuprofen to help with the pain.

Herniated disc

The spine is made up of many parts including spinal discs and vertebrae. If a disc slips, it means that the soft center of the disc has bulged out, which can irritate the nearby spinal nerves. A slipped disc may be accompanied by severe shooting pain.

Commonly treated with rest, NSAIDs, and physical therapy, a herniated disc is often less of an issue after about six weeks. If the pain is still present after six to eight weeks, your doctor might recommend an epidural steroid injection into the space around the nerve to reduce inflammation and provide pain relief. If your symptoms continue, your doctor may suggest surgery.

Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis is caused by an injured vertebra shifting or slipping forward on the vertebra directly below it. More likely in younger people who participate in sports like gymnastics and weightlifting, spondylolisthesis is often the result of untreated spondylolysis. Spondylolysis is a stress fracture or crack in the small, thin portion of the vertebra that connects the upper and lower facet joints.

Treatment can include:

  • back braces
  • physical therapy
  • pain medication
  • surgery

Arthritis

If you are over the age of 55, your lower back pain may be the result of arthritis. Your joints are protected by cartilage, and when your cartilage deteriorates, it can cause pain and stiffness. There are many different types of arthritis, including:

If you have lower back pain, you may be experiencing ankylosing spondylitis, which is a form of arthritis that causes the spinal vertebrae to fuse. Treatment may involve pain medication, medication for swelling, or surgery if the pain is severe.

The back pain you are feeling when you bend over is likely due to a muscle pull or strain. It could, however, be something more serious such as a herniated disc. If you are experiencing severe back pain, blood in urine, changes in bowel or bladder habits, pain when you lie down, or fever, you should get medical help right away.

If your back pain does not go away or improve over time, schedule an appointment with your doctor for a full diagnosis.