Understanding Back Pain: Causes & Relief

Man experiencing back pain while walking outdoors and holding his lower back with his right hand<br />

Experiencing back pain and not knowing why can be quite frustrating – understanding the cause is the first step in figuring out how to get relief and prevent more pain.

Typically, natural body movements are not a problem. Nevertheless, when individuals perform the same body movements repeatedly, they can develop a repetitive stress injury (aka overuse injury) 1. These injuries are a common issue for people working remotely and as the number of people working from home continues to rise, overuse injuries within this group are increasing as well2. Common overuse injuries for people working from home cause pain in the neck and lower back.

Types of back pain

The neck

Symptoms of a neck strain include muscle spasms, headaches, and limited head movement.3 The pain usually becomes worse when the head remains in one position for a long time (e.g., while working on a computer).4

The thoracic area (Upper and Middle Back)

The thoracic area (upper and middle back area) does not need to move as much as the rest of the back, therefore, pain in this area is less common. Typically, the pain in the thoracic area occurs when someone overstretches, or pulls, a muscle in their back5

Why do I have back pain?

An injury is the most common cause of back pain. Many times, people injure their back participating in activities that they don’t perform too often (e.g., working in the yard, carrying heavy objects, playing sports). Injuries sustained while participating in these activities occur suddenly. They are referred to as acute injuries. Inflammation and bruises may develop shortly after this type of injury.6

A minor injury can occur due to a short fall, a trip, a sedentary lifestyle and from twisting the neck or back excessively.6

Another one of the causes of back pain is lifting with the back instead of the legs. Lifting objects in this way can cause an individual to pull a back muscle.6 When a muscle is pulled (aka strained), it begins to feel tight and starts to spasm, which leads to inflammation and pain.3

Other common causes of lower back pain include joint problems, disc injuries and irritated nerve roots.7

Back pain while sleeping

Sleeping position can play a role in whether an individual experiences back pain while sleeping, as well as upon waking. Typically, certain positions such as sleeping on your stomach can cause stress on your back, leading to back pain while asleep or in the morning.8

A good sleeping position is one that aligns the head and the neck with the body but below are some tips to reduce stress on your back while you sleep4,8:

  • If you’re a side sleeper, pull your legs slightly towards your chest and place a pillow between them.
  • If you’re someone that likes to sleep on their back, placing a pillow under your knees can reduce the stress on your back by helping maintain the natural curve of your lower back.
  • Lastly, if you’re a stomach sleeper, it’s best to place a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen so that you’re reducing strain on your back.

Back pain treatment & relief options

Treatment options include6:

  • Avoid bedrest. Bedrest is not an effective treatment and may cause you heal more slowly.
  • Changing positions every half hour as well as gently massaging the area to encourage blood flow.
  • Short walks on flat surfaces to keep your muscles strong, avoiding hills and stairs.
  • MedicationTry an over-the-counter pain reliever formulated with a muscle relaxant, such as Extra Strength TYLENOL® Back Pain. This medication contains acetaminophen, a pain reliever, and methocarbamol, a muscle relaxant. Extra Strength TYLENOL® Back Pain is ideal for those whose back pain symptoms include muscle spasms.

TYLENOL® Extra Strength is also a good choice for people with mild to moderate aches and pains caused by a variety of conditions.

To be sure any TYLENOL® product is right for you, always read and follow the labels.

IMPORTANT: Take only ONE medicine at a time containing acetaminophen.

Prevention and pain management

Finding prevention techniques for back pain could help set you up for success in the future – ideally, a future with less back pain! Below are some tips on prevention6.

Exercise to keep your back strong

Performing exercises that can increase your core stability can help with reducing strain on your back. Additionally, learning how to properly lift objects and avoiding exercises that could cause strain can protect your job back from future injuries.

Improve posture

Being conscious of your posture when sitting or standing for long periods can help remind you to correct it when you find yourself or slouching or slumping.

Poor posture, slouching and slumping do not usually cause lower back pain for those with a healthy spine. However, if the back does become injured, these positions could increase pain level.

Different sleeping positions

Trying sleeping positions that reduce strain on your back can prevent future pain from popping up. Helpful sleeping positions were mentioned earlier e.g., sleeping with a pillow between your legs8.


Experiencing back pain is never enjoyable, but knowing the causes and options to relieve the symptoms can ease some of that pain. Not to mention, knowing what sort of lifestyle changes you need to make to prevent back pain is just as important.


  1. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17424-repetitive-strain-injury
  2. https://www.statista.com/topics/7816/remote-work-in-canada/#topicHeader__wrapper
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/neck-pain/symptoms-causes/syc-20375581
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/neck-pain-and-stiff-neck/
  5. https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/aftercareinformation/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=acg3067
  6. https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/illnesses-conditions/joints-and-spinal-conditions/back-problems-and-injuries
  7. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/back-pain/
  8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/back-pain/multimedia/sleeping-positions/sls-20076452


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Pain relief you can count on.


Learn more about safe acetaminophen usage.