The spine is one of the most sensitive parts of the body. A movement in the wrong direction or months spent slouching over a computer can affect your spine for years to come. And one small vertebra shifting out of place can cause more excruciating pain than you would initially think.
According to Prevention, back pain is second only to the common cold on the list of reasons people visit the doctor. In fact, it is the third-most common cause for surgery and the fifth-highest cause for hospitalization. Going about the daily grind with an aching back is especially challenging. It is hard to believe over 80 percent of adults go about their lives with lower back pain according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
What is the cause of so many people suffering from a bad back? Well, there may be some everyday decisions you are making that are setting you up for a massive dose of back pain in later years.
Sitting any which way at your desk
Pick a chair “that supports your spinal curves,” according to the Mayo Clinic, and adjust its height so your feet will be flat on the floor and your computer monitor about arm’s length away from you and the top will be “at or slightly below eye level.” Use these 11 steps to show you how to sit properly.
It’s well known that smoking does damage to your heart and lungs and can cause cancer, stroke and even diabetes. But it can also cause lower back pain, possibly because the same vascular damage caused by smoking in other areas of the body can lead to vascular damage in the discs and joints, according to spine-health.com. The remedy? Find a smoking-cessation program that will work for you.
Yes, you’ve heard it before: Exercise helps with just about anything, from mental health to plenty of physical ailments. Stay fit, even if it’s just by walking – but do it regularly – and your likelihood of developing back pain will be lower.
Holding on to stress
Emotions play a part in your back pain, believe it or not. “Stress can lead to muscle tension in the back, and depression and anxiety may make the pain feel even worse,” according to WebMD. Even worse, the chronic pain can then contribute to psychological difficulties.
Powering through pain
You may feel tough when you ignore oncoming pain and go about your business, but it’s highly unlikely back pain will just go away on its own, especially if you practice some of these bad habits. See a doctor and get help soon.
Carrying around extra pounds can put stress on your back. Do what you can to control your weight by adopting a healthier diet and exercising regularly. There are online programs that specialize in personal weight loss. MyHealth Pass offers such a program called MyHealth Coach. This virtual program offers coaching sessions, personal workout plans, stress-management tools, and professional resources to help you achieve your weight loss goals.
You may lift heavy objects regularly for a job or at home, or you may just be helping a friend move or rearranging furniture at home. Either way, taking the time to research, and remembering to use proper lifting techniques will make a world of difference when it comes to your back. The Mayo Clinic has a handy slideshow that demonstrates proper lifting.
Hours in the car
If your job requires lots of travel, you have a long commute to your office each day, or you are taxiing kids to and from school for half of the day, bad driving posture can lead to future pain that’s more than just the frustration of traffic. Darran W. Marlow, director of the chiropractic division at the Texas Back Institute, offered this suggestion to Prevention: “Be sure you sit at a 90-degree angle, close to the wheel so you don’t have to stretch.”
Your bike isn’t a good fit
If you’re saving the environment by biking to work, you might not be saving your back. Prevention offers some tips on ways to make sure your bike is as comfortable as it can be, including having the bar on a road bike or hybrid “about 1 to 2 inches from your crotch” and 3 to 6 inches on mountain bikes. It also suggests tilting “the front tip of your saddle down about 10 to 15 degrees.” For more help, consult a local bicycle shop.
Wearing high heels
You’ve probably heard it many times before, but high heels are not a friend to your feet or your back. If you just can’t bring yourself to ditch your favorite pair of heels, be certain to find some that fit well. Or, you can do regular stretches that correct your posture and target back pain, such as those recommended by the American Osteopathic Association, that will help “loosen hamstrings and work to alleviate back pain.”
You’re Mary Poppins
When it comes to a bag that has everything, that is. If you can pull out just about anything from your tote or purse, you may be very well prepared for almost anything, but be prepared to experience back pain later on, too. If you’d like to avoid that pain, carry a light bag and, as recommended by the American Chiropractic Association, make sure it doesn’t weigh more than 10 percent of your body weight when it is completely full.
You’re snoozing on an old mattress
You’ve heard the fact: You sleep for about a third of your life, so having a quality mattress (and pillow) is vital to your quality of sleep and to your body’s mechanics. Find one that is medium-firm, according to Prevention, and create healthy alignment by “tucking a pillow under your knees if you sleep on your back, between your knees if you’re a side sleeper, or beneath your stomach and hips if you snooze on your belly.” Also, a sturdy mattress only lasts about nine to ten years, so if you’re past that point, it’s probably time to go shopping.
If you’re at the point where you need help with back pain, MyHealth Pass offers MyHealthy Back, an eight-week program that will address that pain. The program features certified specialists who have helped over 10,000 patients relieve their back pain and they are ready to alleviate your pain as well.