If you’ve seen a chiropractor or MD for your back pain they may have mentioned mechanical low back pain, but what is mechanical low back? I’m going to tackle the term “mechanical low back pain” in order to teach you what it means so you can relate it to your specific case.

Once we explain mechanical low back pain, I’ll give you 4 facts about it and how to go about getting treatment for it.

As always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you might have about mechanical low back pain or forward the content to a friend, family member, or co-worker who you think may need to read it.

Mechanical Low Back Pain Means…

In the simplest terms, here’s what mechanical low back pain means:

” Low back pain caused by the joints of the spine, intervertebral discs, or muscles and ligaments of the spine.”

You may be thinking, “that’s not very specific.” Well, you’re right, the term mechanical low back pain isn’t very specific. It does rule out that the cause isn’t coming from other, more ominous, things. If you have mechanical low back pain, that means it’s not coming from a tumor, cancer, infection or other scary causes. That’s great news, right?

Still, the term mechanical low back pain doesn’t narrow down the cause very well. That’s where an experienced evidence-based chiropractor can come in handy.

In school, chiropractors are taught how to identify the cause of your pain by using orthopedic tests, hands-on exam techniques, neurological testing, and imaging. These parts of a standard chiropractic exam give your provider an idea of what could be causing the pain. The exam can give you a pretty good idea about what’s causing it and help your chiropractor make a goal-oriented plan on how to treat it and get you feeling better.

Typically, mechanical low back pain originating from an intervertebral disc responds well to specific treatments, pain from (facet) joints of the spine responds well to other treatments, and pain originating from soft tissue injury responds well to another strategy.

Once your chiropractor has an idea of what’s causing your low back pain, they can get you on the road to recovery. This is why your first appointment always has an exam to nail down the cause.

What’s the Best Treatment For Mechanical Low Back Pain?

You should know that there’s not ONE special or best treatment that works for all causes of mechanical low back pain. There’s not even one special treatment that works for everyone with the same cause. Since you are unique, you need a unique and individualized treatment strategy. The good news is that by working with an evidence-based chiropractor if one treatment that’s expected to help isn’t helping, they can try another.

Although mechanical low back pain may sound simple by its definition, know that back pain is never simple. Overall, back pain is the number one cause of disability in the world. This may sound disheartening, but know that if you get the right treatment first then your chances of overcoming it are much better.

The vast majority of mechanical low back pain causes shouldn’t become long-term issues that persist forever. Our providers understand that and are committed to getting you the right treatment for your mechanical low back pain, even if it means a referral to a different doctor.

Facts About Mechanical Low Back Pain

You shouldn’t have x-rays, an MRI, or a CT scan right away (for the first 6 weeks.)

Studies show that patients with low back pain who have imaging early on actually have a poorer prognosis, and it costs them more money. When should you have these imaging studies done? Imaging may be needed if you have had recent trauma (like a car accident), your doctor suspects cancer, your doctor suspects an infection, you’re not improving as suspected, or you have significant neurological issues.

You shouldn’t be on bed rest. Maintain your normal life as much as you can.

Back in the day doctors would put patients on bed rest when they had back pain. With mechanical low back pain, we now know that this isn’t the right thing to do. You should move as much as you can without worsening your symptoms. Patients who go on bed rest initially have generally worse outcomes. Bed rest just really doesn’t help and may really disrupt your normal living routine.

Mechanical low back pain correlates highly with other health and lifestyle factors.

There are a lot of things that contribute to mechanical low back pain. Partially, this is why it’s complicated to treat sometimes. Those who are sedentary and don’t exercise have higher rates of mechanical low back pain. Obesity correlates highly with mechanical low back pain. Smokers have higher rates of mechanical low back pain. These are just a few examples, but if one of them applies to you it’s worth trying to make a change. Positive changes in relation to these aspects can help you recover and may help prevent future episodes.

Unfortunately, medication isn’t very effective for the treatment of low back pain.

Medication is often the first thing we try in cases of pain, including back pain. Unfortunately, over-the-counter medications and prescription medications don’t show strong effectiveness for low back pain treatment. You can see a summary in this infographic, thanks to ChiroUp!

medication for low back pain

Chiropractor for Mechanical Low Back Pain

If you’re suffering from mechanical low back pain and looking for the best treatments, I’d encourage you to see a chiropractor.

Although some cases will resolve without care, or with exercises and self-directed lifestyle changes, some won’t. Our Cary chiropractic clinic offers evidence-informed chiropractic care that’s supported by research. I encourage you to schedule an appointment today and get on your road to being active and feeling yourself again!


Jason Williams DC is a chiropractic physician practicing at AccessHealth Chiropractic in Cary, NC. He treats neuromusculoskeletal pain and injuries using chiropractic manipulation, dry needling, acupuncture, rehab exercise strategies, and other supportive therapies. Primary areas of focus include spine-related disorders, sports injuries, and orthopedic injuries. Dr. Williams is experienced in treating athletes, especially those in the CrossFit, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and MMA community.

If you’re interested in whether he or another AccessHealth provider can help you, navigate to our contact page or follow this link to request an appointment.