Understanding Back Pain

Barrhaven! Have you ever wondered why your back often feels so stiff when you get up from a sitting position or when you stand for too long (cooking, washing dishes, etc.)? Quite a few of my clients here in the Barrhaven clinic blame their low back pain on aging. Although someone’s age might affect their injury recovery rate, it should NEVER be an excuse for pain! In fact, some types of low back pain actually get BETTER with age.

There are many reasons why someone might have back pain. I will be listing below 2 more common scenarios for Low Back Pain and what might be causing them. These 2 presentations of low back issues make up a BIG percentage of low back patients in my Barrhaven physiotherapy practice. If you have back pain, more likely than not, you are in one of these 2 types.

Ottawa: What is Your Type of Low Back Pain and What Causes Them?

Type A: My back hurts more when I am Sitting

back pain sitting

If you find yourself in pain after sitting for more than 10 minutes, you most likely belong in this category. If it does not bother you to sit, but the longer you sit, the stiffer you are when you get up, you are still in this category!

Symptoms May Include:

  • Pain/stiffness in the back with prolonged sitting
  • Pain intensity
    is proportional to sitting time
  • Pain starts moving down the leg the longer you sit
  • Numbness and/or Tingling in the legs with prolonged sitting
  • Getting up in the morning is TERRIBLE
  • Lying flat on your stomach might relieve some pain
  • Walking usually helps the pain

How You Might Have Injured Yourself

  • You didn’t do anything different. It really just came on its own.
  • You did a lot of forward bending (crouching, painting, gardening, vacuuming, etc.)
  • You work a desk job.
  • You did a lot of sitting (plane/car trips, vacation, long meetings, etc.)
  • You lifted/pulled something and felt pain in your back right away.
  • Traumatic Injury (Motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, etc.)

Common Possible Causes: (among possible other causes; do not self diagnose; go see a professional)

  • Disc Related Issue (Disk herniation, Disk Bulge, Degenerative Disk, etc.)
  • Joint Dysfunction
  • Too Many Repetitive/Sustained Movement in Bending Forward
  • Bad Sitting Posture
  • Other

Type B: My back hurts more when I am Walking/Upright


back pain standing

If you have pain with standing or walking a lot, you are in this category!

Symptoms May Include:

  • Increase pain with prolonged standing or walking
  • Pain stops when you sit down or bend forward
  • Pain during certain sports/activity
  • Sleeping on your stomach is more painful
  • Lying down feels better
  • Pain/Numbness/Tingling increase in the leg with prolonged standing/walking

How You Might Have Injured Yourself

  • You didn’t do anything different. It really just came on its own.
  • You did a lot of backward bending (gymnasts, dancers, etc.)
  • You work a job where you stand all day.
  • Traumatic Injury (Motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, etc.)

Common Possible Causes: (again, there are many other possible causes)

  • If you are older: Stenosis (Narrowing of the spinal canals, usually cause by a disc or bone spurs)
  • If you are younger: Anterior Spondylolisthesis (anterior displacement of one spinal vertebra over the one below)
  • Repeated/Excessive bending backwards (gymnasts, dancers, painters, etc.)
  • You work a job where you mostly stand all day
  • Other (many many other)

Type C-Z: My Pain is a Mix of What you’ve Listed!

I have only listed the 2 more common presentations of low back pain, but there are so many other causes of low back pain. Every person is a little different. The best way to diagnose and get rid of your back pain is to see a Registered Physiotherapist for an assessment and develop a treatment plan. Contrary to common beliefs, physiotherapists are able to diagnose and treat most low back pain without the aid of imaging like XRays and MRIs.

Now that you can categorize your back pain, this article can help you determine what are the best tips for you to reduce your back pain:


Here are some related articles you might be interested in:

Effective Back Pain Treatment: I Want to Avoid the Use of Medication

Research has found the McKenzie Method to be the best treatment for chronic low back pain. 75% of low back pain improves rapidly with that technique. Ask your physiotherapist if he/she is certified in the McKenzie Method. This Article Coming Soon!

Stiffness in the Back and Neck in the Morning

Many of us find ourselves waking up in the morning feeling VERY stiff. It sometimes takes quite an effort to roll out of bed and those first few steps might be stiff and sometimes even painful. Why is this happening? Is it the bed or pillow? Is it age? Is it the way I sleep? Am I developing back or neck problems? Read More…

Is The Pain In My Leg(s) Coming From My Back?

Did you know that one can have pain in any part of the leg(s) referred from the low back, without necessarily having noticeable discomfort in their low back? Read More…


About the Author:

Lily ZhangLily Zhang is a registered physiotherapist with training specializing in the McKenzie Method.  She graduated from McGill University and is currently working in Barrhaven (Ottawa, ON). She has over 10 years of professional training/clinical experience in orthopedic physiotherapy.  You can Follow Her Blog @PhysioVive Facebook Page.


  1. Anna Fridland

    A few days ago I completed 5 back pain sessions with Lily in PhysioVIVe. Lily did absolutelly greate job. She is knowledgable and her personality just amazing. She really helped me to recover from back pain very quickly. Great job, Lily, and thank you! Anna

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