Back pain affects an estimated 80 percent of Americans at some time in their lives. It’s not necessarily an injury or trauma, but the result of years of improper posture or strain on the spine that can cause chronic back pain, the kind of pain that requires physical therapy, chiropractic care or even surgery.
The simple solution: Become mindful of the daily choices you make to prevent any damage in the future. Here are seven causes of back pain that might be setting you up for a painful future.
7 Causes of Back Pain to Watch Out For
It’s great you’ve included exercise as part of your routine, but be sure that your form or technique is not doing you more harm than good. Be careful to recognize and acknowledge your limits.
Men are mostly guilty of this at the gym, lifting extra weight to impress other gym-goers. In fact, according to The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 82 percent of weight training emergency room visits from 1990 to 2007 were men. Be sure to stretch before and after any workout.
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Studies show that the progressive use of smartphones and tablets can lead to an increase in medical problems – the main culprit being “text neck.”
Text neck is caused by leaning the head forward over a cell phone, tablet, or gaming system for an extended time. According to Forbes.com, with 2.19 trillion texts being sent annually by U.S. customers, there are millions of potential sufferers. The added strain on your neck and shoulders creates muscle tension and an opportunity for an injured spine, as well as disc herniation, muscle strain, or pinched nerves.
So watch your posture, and keep technology at eye level.
3. Women’s Fashion
We understand women love their shoes, but ladies, they’re not so good for the back. High heels shift your posture, putting more pressure on the spine. If your vanity wins out, at least bring a pair of sneakers for the moment you step out of the office.
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While trendy handbags and purses these days run big, note that big usually also means more room, and that means heavy. The American Chiropractic Association recommends that women carry no more than 10 percent of their body weight. It’s also recommended to switch shoulders regularly, wear the bag across your body and add extra padding to purse straps.
You’ve thought this one before: Work is painful. Actually, your whine might actually be true. There are occupational hazards for every type of job, from those that involve sitting all day to manual labor.
For the desk sitters, it’s important to make sure you have lumbar support and to get up regularly to stretch and move around. You should also make sure your computer screen is eye level, your posture is aligned and you’re not hunched over your keyboard.
Those who do manual labor need to treat it like exercise. Stretch before/after and lift properly, using your quadriceps rather than your lumbar muscles.
5. Grocery shopping
That laid-back chore is actually exercised.
We lift heavy items, like jugs of milk, cases of soda, and pounds of dog food. We squat to reach items on the bottom shelves and also reach for top-shelf items. We move each item on our list about four times, from the shelf to the cart to the checkout to the car, and into the house. Give yourself some credit for that workout! That means be careful, too.
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Use proper posture when lifting and bending. Don’t bend at the waist, but squat and use your quadriceps. Bring items close to your core when lifted and don’t have them dangling far from your body where you have less support.
When packing up your bags, spread out the heavy items among bags and keep bags light. Make several trips carrying your groceries into the house rather than packing several on each arm for convenience.
Back pain can be haunting you even in your sleep. Bad posture while sleeping can lead to soreness in the morning and can lead to shifting of your spine’s position.
Your bed should lean to the firm side in order to provide the most natural spine position. Be cautious with pillows, as too many pillows can have you arching your spine to accommodate the position.
And that’s just while you’re sleeping. When you wake up, consider stretching. Your muscles have been at rest, and too much motion can be jarring and put additional stress on your body.
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Sex can be, well, active. So treat it like exercise. Stretching before and after might kill the mood, but your body will thank you for it. Be aware of your spinal alignment as you move, and if you feel any pain, quickly adjust your position. And just like exercise, don’t overexert yourself. Know your limits and stay comfortable.
Michael Perry, M.D. is the Medical Director at Laser Spine Institute. Dr. Perry is board certified in internal medicine by The American Board of Internal Medicine and he is a Diplomat for the American Board of Internal Medicine.
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