Click here for a free recording of my webinar on hip vs. lower back pain! How to tell the difference and what to do about it!
Arthritis or Degeneration: What is causing my lower back pain?

Arthritis or Degeneration: What is causing my lower back pain?

Dr. Michael Derry, DPT, PT, OCS Jacksonville, Florida
Table of Contents

What is causing my lower back pain? 

Generally speaking, we don’t know what is causing your lower back pain most of the time. In about 10-15% people,  we can confidently and definitively diagnosis the cause of low back pain.
Degeneration often refers to osteoarthritis or just arthritis of the joints in your spine. Many small joints allow you to move in multiple directions while protecting your precious spinal cord. Think bending forward and bending backwards!  
Osteoarthritis is a change of the joint surface and capsule that can lead to the smooth surface of your joint not being as smooth any more. Changes on the cellular level can lead to inflammation of the cartilage and articulating surfaces.

Is pain from arthritis bad?

Well, no. Osteoarthritis is very normal and has been found on X-rays, MRIs, and other images in people without pain!

Is arthritis always painful?

No. I have seen it many times. Those with moderate and even severe osteoarthritis may not have pain!

Is "bone on bone" arthritis?

Yes. Well kind of. Changes that involve the joint, capsule, and surrounding tissue can lead to arthritis. If it progresses enough this may result in little cushion left which may be called, “bone on bone”.

How do I prevent lower back arthritis?

There is no magic pill to prevent lower back arthritis. It is so common that it is considered normal in the medical community. We are not made to last forever but we don’t have to be limited in what we want to do!

What is lower back degeneration?

In general, most degeneration is caused by time. You have been on this earth for a few years, so you have wear on the tires.

How do I know if my pain is from degeneration?

It is hard to tell, especially in the lumbar spine. Degeneration is very normal. Most often, I see patients with some general stiffness caused by changes over time. A great example of this is when you get out of bed in the morning.  You might feel a little stiff and achy.

Can I prevent degeneration?

No, you can’t. Trust me, that is okay! It’s your mindset and what you do with it that matters. If you have some stiffness with or without pain there are lot of ways to make it feel better. Most often, with some mobility or movement of the spine.
Check out my video that goes over some of my favorite mobility exercises to feel better! 


In reality, I am sure you will be offered many tests and procedures to try to diagnosis your pain. Ranging from MRIs, X-rays, injections, nerve blocks, and more. In the absence of severe red flags* unexplained weight loss, history of cancer, night pain, numbness or tingling into your groin, fever, and more.
Your first step should be to pursue an active treatment such as yoga, physical therapy, exercise, and more to let your body do its thing!  
*= a detailed exam from a medical professional can help you make an educated decision based on their experience, what you are feeling, and how you are presenting.


If you are interested in knowing more about degenerative and arthritis and want to treat it independently without surgery, injections, or wasted time on Google, check out my course! It was developed after years of patient care and will help you know more and feel better.

Click here! 

Want to be notified of future blogs? Click here!


1. Koes BW, van Tulder MW, Thomas S. Diagnosis and treatment of low back pain. BMJ. 2006;332(7555):1430-1434. doi:10.1136/bmj.332.7555.1430 2. Lewis JS, Cook CE, Hoffmann TC, O'Sullivan P. The Elephant in the Room: Too Much Medicine in Musculoskeletal Practice. J Orthop Sports PhysTher. 2020 Jan;50(1):1-4. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2020.0601. PMID: 31892292. 3. Cook, C. E., George, S. Z., & Reiman, M. P. (2017). Red flags creening for low back pain: nothing to see here, move along: a narrative review. Br J Sports Med,bjsports-2017.

Dr. Michael Derry is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and board certified in orthopedics. He is very passionate about treating lower back pain and helping people build their resiliency. He has spent time assisting at universities as well as managing large clinics before starting his own practice in Jacksonville, FL.

Latest articles.

One step closer to a better you.

Schedule now to get the pain relief and health you want without wasting time or money.

New Patient Application
Physical Therapy Jacksonville Florida
<-- Table of Contents -->