Have back pain? These bad habits could be making it worse.
Back pain is one of the most common medical issues in the U.S. About 80 percent of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
While some causes of back pain are obvious—such as a sports injury or accident—there are other more subtle factors that may be contributing to your aching back as well. “There are many things you may be doing throughout the day that may be causing back pain or making it worse and you may not be aware of it,” says pain specialist Kaliq Chang, MD.
Here are nine everyday habits that may be causing your back pain—and what to do about it.
1. Your lifting form. Any activity that requires heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling, particularly when you’re bending or twisting the spine, can lead to injury and back pain, especially if you have improper form.
“When you’re going to pick up an object on the floor, it’s best to squat and keep your spine as straight as possible,” says Dr. Chang. “Reach down and hold the object close to your body as you come up, and use those powerful leg muscles to not put the stress onto the spine.”
2. Your posture at work. Slouching or hunching over a desk all day can put tension on the spine, which can cause your back to ache. “Most people spend a lot of time at work—and if they’re sitting down, depending on their positioning or their ergonomics, they could be making back pain a lot worse,” says Dr. Chang.
Along with changing your desk setup for better posture, one of the best things you can do for your back is to take breaks from sitting too long or even standing too long. To breakup sitting time, try these easy yoga moves you can do at your desk.
3. Your mattress. Your bed may be to blame for your achy back. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, 63 percent of people say that their back pain improved after getting a new mattress.
“Depending on how firm or how soft the mattress is, it may put your spine out of alignment,” says Dr. Chang. “So the important thing is to find the right mattress for you that makes sure that your spine will be aligned.”
If you’re not sure if your spine is aligned while you snooze, pay attention to how well you sleep. “One of the biggest tests is to see if you get a good night’s sleep,” says Dr. Chang. “Another way to figure it out is to have someone take a picture of your back while you’re lying there to see if the spine looks straight or neutral.”
Sleep position also plays a big role in managing your back pain. Learn more about how different sleep positions affect your health.
4. Your menstrual period. “For women, your period can actually affect how and when you experience back pain,” say Dr. Chang.
Period-induced back pain is caused by hormones called prostaglandins. These hormones are produced in the uterus, and your uterus contracts as you’re having your menstrual flow (hello, cramps!). If your back pain shows up right before or during the start of your period, it may be related to these hormone-induced contractions.
5. Your smoking habit. “Being a smoker has definitely been shown to increase the risk of back pain,” says Dr. Chang. “The thought is that it’s related to the damage to the small blood vessels that feed the spine.” In addition, cigarette smoking is also bad for your bones and increases your risk of developing osteoporosis.
Need help quitting? Here are some doctor-approved tips to help you kick the smoking habit.
6. Your wardrobe. Different aspects of how you dress can cause back pain, such as wearing shoes that are uneven, carrying a heavy bag, or wearing an unsupportive bra, says Dr. Chang. “I know that high heels have a bad reputation for possible causing back pain, but flip flops, flats, and shoes that have worn unevenly can all contribute to an abnormal gait, which causes stress on the spine,” he says.
7. Your exercise habits. Back pain is more common among people who are inactive. “You want to have strength in the more muscles that surround the spine and stabilize the spine to help prevent the spine injury from happening,” says Dr. Chang.
8. Your weight. Being overweight increases your risk of developing chronic back pain. “People who are overweight are predisposed to developing back pain because of the excessive weight on the spine,” says Dr. Chang.
Looking to jazz up your slim-down efforts? Here are five unconventional weight loss tips that actually work.
9. Your stress and anxiety levels. “Anxiety and stress are definitely related to chronic pain,” says Dr. Chang. “It can be the cause of pain and it can also result from chronic pain.”
Anxiety can influence how closely a person focuses on their pain, as well as their perception of how severe their pain is. Stress affects the body and can contribute to back pain in many ways, including causing muscle tension.
Feeling frazzled? Try this easy yoga routine to bust stress and anxiety.
“When you start to experience back pain, it’s appropriate to see your primary care physician who can guide you in the initial treatments, including medications and conservative therapy,” says Dr. Chang. However, when the pain issue persists beyond those points, you should seek a pain management consultation.”
Dr. Chang is a highly specialized interventional pain management specialist in private practice in New Jersey.
00:00:00,000 --> 00:00:02,584
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There are many things you may be doing
throughout the day that may be causing
00:00:05,546 --> 00:00:06,824
back pain, or making it worse.
00:00:06,824 --> 00:00:08,153
And you may not be aware of them.
00:00:08,153 --> 00:00:14,260
00:00:14,260 --> 00:00:15,515
Back pain is very common.
00:00:15,515 --> 00:00:19,785
80% of all people usually experience
some sort of back pain in their life.
00:00:19,785 --> 00:00:24,063
How you lift heavy objects can definitely
influence how you experience back pain.
00:00:24,063 --> 00:00:31,548
Proper lifting technique involves avoiding
as much bending, twisting at the waist.
00:00:31,548 --> 00:00:35,557
When you're going to pick up an object
on the floor, it's best to squat and
00:00:35,557 --> 00:00:37,798
keep your spine as straight as possible.
00:00:37,798 --> 00:00:41,207
Reach down and hold the objects
close to your body as you come up.
00:00:41,207 --> 00:00:46,119
And use those powerful leg muscles to
not put the stress onto the spine.
00:00:46,119 --> 00:00:49,970
Most people spend a lot of time at
work and if they're sitting down.
00:00:49,970 --> 00:00:53,349
Depending on their positioning,
00:00:53,349 --> 00:00:56,000
they could be making
back pain a lot worse.
00:00:56,000 --> 00:00:57,881
So one of the best things you can do for
00:00:57,881 --> 00:01:01,542
your back is to take frequent breaks
from sitting or standing too long.
00:01:01,542 --> 00:01:03,094
Your bed, your mattress, and
00:01:03,094 --> 00:01:06,562
how you sleep can also be a big factor
in how you manage your back pain.
00:01:06,562 --> 00:01:09,934
Depending on how firm or
how soft the mattress is,
00:01:09,934 --> 00:01:12,596
it may put your spine out of alignment.
00:01:12,596 --> 00:01:15,936
So the important thing is to
find the right mattress for
00:01:15,936 --> 00:01:19,139
you that makes sure that
your spine will be aligned.
00:01:19,139 --> 00:01:23,937
And this can change whether you
sleep on your back or your side.
00:01:23,937 --> 00:01:27,411
Sleeping on your belly,
unfortunately, is not recommended,
00:01:27,411 --> 00:01:31,608
because almost in all situations,
the spine is not in the natural position.
00:01:31,608 --> 00:01:34,215
One of the biggest tests is to see
if you get a good night's sleep.
00:01:34,215 --> 00:01:37,065
Another way to figure it out is
possibly to have someone take
00:01:37,065 --> 00:01:39,468
a picture of your back
while you're lying there.
00:01:39,468 --> 00:01:42,686
And to see if the spine looks straight or
00:01:42,686 --> 00:01:45,813
For women, your menstrual period
can actually effect when and
00:01:45,813 --> 00:01:47,355
how you experience back pain.
00:01:47,355 --> 00:01:50,684
The hormones that are released,
00:01:50,684 --> 00:01:52,263
can contribute to back pain.
00:01:52,263 --> 00:01:55,540
As well as the cramping and
the other usual pains.
00:01:55,540 --> 00:01:59,683
Being a smoker has definitely been shown
in many studies to increase the risk of
00:01:59,683 --> 00:02:00,322
00:02:00,322 --> 00:02:05,099
The thought is a lot of this is related
to the damage to the small blood vessels
00:02:05,099 --> 00:02:06,753
that will feed the spine.
00:02:06,753 --> 00:02:11,036
And also increase the risk of
osteoporosis or bone density loss.
00:02:11,036 --> 00:02:13,814
Different aspects of how you
dress can also cause back pain.
00:02:13,814 --> 00:02:18,644
Whether it be the types of shoes you wear,
carrying a heavy bag or
00:02:18,644 --> 00:02:20,713
even an unsupportive bra.
00:02:20,713 --> 00:02:24,399
I know that high heels have a bad
reputation for possibly causing back pain.
00:02:24,399 --> 00:02:28,719
But flip flops, flats,
shoes that have worn unevenly,
00:02:28,719 --> 00:02:32,052
that can all attribute
to an abnormal gait.
00:02:32,052 --> 00:02:34,978
Or it causes abnormal stress on the spine,
00:02:34,978 --> 00:02:39,463
whether it be unbalanced left or
right, or forward or backward.
00:02:39,463 --> 00:02:44,584
Not exercising regularly can definitely
contribute to developing back pain.
00:02:44,584 --> 00:02:48,237
You want to have strength in the core
muscles that surround the spine.
00:02:48,237 --> 00:02:52,702
And stabilize the spine to help
prevent a spine injury from happening.
00:02:52,702 --> 00:02:56,086
Weight can be another risk factor
in developing chronic back pain.
00:02:56,086 --> 00:02:59,578
People who are overweight are predisposed
to developing back pain because of
00:02:59,578 --> 00:03:01,197
the excessive weight on the spine.
00:03:01,197 --> 00:03:05,896
Anxiety and stress are definitely
related with chronic pain,
00:03:05,896 --> 00:03:10,867
it can be the cause of pain and
it can also result from chronic pain.
00:03:10,867 --> 00:03:12,592
When you start to experience back pain,
00:03:12,592 --> 00:03:14,932
it is appropriate to see
your primary care physician.
00:03:14,932 --> 00:03:18,999
Who can guide you in the initial
treatments, including medications and
00:03:18,999 --> 00:03:20,405
00:03:20,405 --> 00:03:24,190
However, when the pain issue
persists beyond those points,
00:03:24,190 --> 00:03:27,265
you should seek a pain
00:03:27,265 --> 00:03:33,161
Low back pain in adults (The basics). UpToDate. (Accessed on September 17, 2018 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/low-back-pain-in-adults-the-basics)
Does physical activity influence the relationship between low back pain and obesity? Redwood City, CA: Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Stanford Medicine Outpatient Center, 2014.(Accessed on September 17, 2018 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24239800)
Preventing Back Pain. National Arthritis Foundation. (Accessed on September 17, 2018 at https://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/where-it-hurts/back-pain/back-care/back-pain-prevention.php)
Back Pain Facts and Statistics. American Chiropractic Association. (Accessed on September 17, 2018 at https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Health-Wellness-Information/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics)
Back Pain. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (Accessed on September 17, 2018 at https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/back-pain#tab-overview)
Low Back Pain Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (Accessed on September 17, 2018 at https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Low-Back-Pain-Fact-Sheet)