10 Habits that are Hurting Your Back
Although as chiropractors we care for more than just back pain, many patients visit us here at All American Healthcare Hammond looking for relief from this widespread condition. In fact, 31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time.
A few interesting facts about back pain:
- Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide.
- One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.
- Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work.
- Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on back pain—and that’s just for the more easily identified costs.
- Experts estimate that as many as 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in our lives.
Take a look at the this list and see how many of these bad habits could be contributing to your back pain. – All American Healthcare Hammond
Back pain sends more patients to doctors than any condition other than the common cold. In fact, it’s the fifth most common reason for hospitalizations and third most common cause of surgery. And 56% of people with lower-back aches say symptoms disrupt their daily routines, including sleep.
There are many possible causes of back pain, which means there are also many non-invasive solutions, according to Todd Sinett, a chiropractor and coauthor of The Truth about Back Pain. “Back pain is rarely one catastrophic event,” he says in the book, “but several situations combining to create pain.” And it turns out that some seemingly insignificant everyday habits can take a big toll on your back over time.
Here, the top 10 mistakes that may be causing your aches and how to correct them.
1. Sitting Too Long
Did you know that sitting equals 40% more spinal pressure than standing. Make sure your office chair supports the curve of your spine, he says: Your lower back should be supported, and your head should be straight—not lurching forward—when you look at your computer screen. Get up and walk around for a couple of minutes every half hour—take trips to get water, walk outside or walk around when ever you take a call.
2. Having Your Car Seat in a Bad Position.
Hunching over a steering wheel can tighten chest muscles and cause your shoulders to round. Slumping posture can zap energy and make you look heavier, not to mention cause back and neck problems. Be sure you sit at a 90-degree angle, close to the wheel so you don’t have to stretch.
3. Skipping Exercise
Research shows that 40% of people become less active after back pain strikes—a strategy that’s likely to delay healing or even make their condition worse.
In fact, most sufferers would benefit from more exercise—particularly frequent walks, which ease stiffness.
4. Overloading Your Bag
A stuffed handbag, briefcase, backpack and even a heavy golf bag may cause back damage that’s comparable to a sports injury. When you tote a heavy bag, your shoulders become imbalanced. Your body elevates the shoulder carrying the bag, which throws your spine off-kilter. Doing this every day can cause back muscles to ache over time.
First, carry the lightest bag possible. The American Chiropractic Association recommends that your bag—when fully loaded—weigh no more than 10% of your body weight. Alternate which shoulder you carry the bag on from day to day, and consider splitting your stuff between two bags (one for each arm), which will painproof your load by distributing it more evenly.
5. Eating an Unhealthy Diet
Research shows that eating habits that are good for your heart, weight, and blood sugar are also good for your back. Finnish research found that people who suffered from back pain were more likely to have clogged arteries to the spine than healthy control subjects. Healthy circulation brings nutrients to the spine and removes waste, says Sinett. If this doesn’t happen, inflammation can result, and inflammatory chemicals in the back can trigger nerves to send pain signals to the brain.
6. Sleeping on an Old Mattress
Can’t remember the last time you replaced it? Your back may be in trouble. A good mattress lasts 9 to 10 years, according to the National Sleep Foundation, but consider replacing yours every 5 to 7 years if you don’t sleep well or your back throbs.
7. Wearing High Heels
Wearing both high heels and or flip flops lead to foot instability, which can in turn affect your back. High heels force you to arch your back, making your spinal muscles work harder. Backless shoes like sandals cause your feet to move from side to side, according to Sinett, which distributes your body weight unevenly and can cause pain.
You don’t have to forgo stylish footwear—just don’t walk long distances in them. Commute in comfy flats or supportive sneakers, and consider adding cushioning inserts to uncomfy shoes. When Lehigh University researchers gave back-pain sufferers lightweight, flexible shoes with simple cushions, 80% reported significant relief within a year.
8. Letting Stress Build Up
Chronic or acute stress can directly trigger back pain. When you’re under the gun, your whole body clenches up, including the muscles in your neck and back. But muscles that contract need to relax eventually, says Sinett. If you’re stressed all the time and those muscles stay tight, it can eventually cause major pain.
9. Watching Too Much TV
Parking yourself in front of the flat screen for hours and hours a day doesn’t make your back very happy. For one thing, excess TV time is probably cutting into exercise time, and we’ve already explained how important exercise is to prevent/reduce back pain. In one Norwegian study of teens, those who sat in front of TV or computer for 15 hours a week or more were three times as likely to have lower-back pain as their more active counterparts (the average American teen watches three hours of telly a day). “They sit with the low back flexed—really hunched over—for hours,” explains lead researcher Astrid Noreng Sjolie, PhD, a physiotherapist at Hedmark University College in Norway. Limit TV to shows you really want to watch, instead of idly channel surfing. And instead of fast-forwarding through commercials, do some stretches or strength moves during the breaks, which will prevent muscle strain from sitting still too long. If you have a kid complaining of back pain, make sure he walks at least one mile daily; this can cut back pain in half and give his still-developing spine a chance to stretch out.
10. Ignoring Back Pain
Trying to block out pain could make it worse, finds research from the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. A better approach: Let yourself consciously experience the hurt. In a standard pain test, psychologists had 68 back-pain sufferers plunge their hands or feet into ice water. When the volunteers were instructed to suppress the shock of the icy water, a key muscle in the back clenched. In contrast, the muscle didn’t tense up when volunteers thought only about the shock. Over time, an increase in muscle tension intensifies pain, says lead researcher John W. Burns, PhD.
Accepting pain may be the best way to mentally cope. “Try thinking about the sensory details of the experience, not the negative emotions,” says Burns. “If you have a back spasm, describe the pain to yourself—if it’s burning or throbbing—and remind yourself that it will pass.”
Source Prevention Magazine
Edited for content