Back Pain in Men

Though the spinal anatomy is the same, men can experience back pain in unique ways from women.

Regardless of gender, back pain can be one of the most frustrating medical conditions. And while it is true that back pain does not discriminate based on gender, it is sometimes necessary to point out the unique differences in how back pain presents itself in either gender. I have written extensively on back pain in women, so I thought it was fitting here to discuss back pain with specific regard to the male species. 

Back pain is a significant health issue faced by many and continues to account for a substantial amount of pain and disability in America. Men tend to report the experience of low back pain more frequently than other back pain types. The medical term for low back pain is lumbago (lumbar spine pain). It can result from several injuries or conditions, but most often relates to muscle strains caused by lifting heavy objects or intense exercise or sporting activities. If you are a man who is prone to chronic episodes of low back pain, be sure to engage in proper lifting techniques whenever you lift an item – bend at the knees, lift with your legs, don’t stoop over the object, and ask for help when the item is bulky or extremely heavy. Furthermore, suppose extreme sporting events are your likeliest low back pain trigger. In that case, even a short warm-up and stretching session beforehand you get started can save you a world of hurt after the strenuous activity is over.

Another cause of back pain in men can include sciatica, with some studies indicating that men can be up to three times more likely to experience this spine condition than women. Additionally, due to structural differences in their hips men can experience tightness that causes a tilt in the pelvis which can lead to strain on the spine and back pain as a result.

Though some back pain episodes can be brought about by an activity you’re engaging in, this fact doesn’t account for every possible cause of the pain. Regular wear and tear on the spine over time can result in a wide range of potential spine problems that can cause back pain – from bulging spinal discs to scoliosis and even spinal fractures. Congenital spinal deformity (from a condition present at birth) can also cause back pain later in life, even if it didn’t present itself until you are in your 50s! The truth is some spinal conditions aren’t a result of neglect.

While it’s good to know which spinal conditions tend to cause back pain in men, it’s better to prevent them (when you can) from occurring in the first place. If you are a smoker, I encourage you to quit – now and for good. Ceasing to use cigarettes can significantly help you reduce the incidence of back pain over a lifetime. Cigarette chemicals can harm the body’s circulatory system, and when this happens, back pain is the result for many people. Another unnecessary cause of back pain and poor spinal health is being overweight. The good news is that even the slightest weight reduction can provide your spine significant relief from the pressure of carrying too much. Our bodies were designed to maintain a certain amount of weight, and when there’s too much, the spine often pays the price and lets us know it in the form of back pain. Over time, regular exercise, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and proper sleep are great ways to keep the body and spine healthy.

If you have been experiencing back pain for more than a few weeks and it hasn’t resolved with conservative treatments such as rest and over-the-counter pain medications, it might be time to see a highly qualified spine specialist who can get to the bottom of it. Figuring out the cause sooner rather than later can save you a world of hurt and more formidable problems to treat down the road.


Neel Anand MD