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The Ultimate Back Pain Relief Tips Blog

12 of the Worst Habits That Will Hurt Your Back

Posted by Dr. Jeff Winternheimer D.C. on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 @ 09:29 AM

back painBelieve it or not, back pain is the second most common complaint that doctors hear, second only to the common cold. When you hurt your back finding relief can be difficult. Back pain is also a common cause of hospitilization and surgery, tooBack pain isn't just annoying. 56% of people who complain of back pain, specifically lower back pain, report that it interferes with their daily life, or makes their daily routine more difficult to complain. Respondents to a recent survey suggest that lower back pain interferes with their sleep as well as their sex life, and it is a common cause of change in routines.

Back pain, and more specifically, lower back pain has a variety of different causes. Todd Sinett, a chiropractor and author, argues that lower back pain is rarely due to one single injury or even, but rather, back pain can be caused by, or compounded by a series of events and habits. In fact, some seemingly innocent activities might be causing your back pain. While that seems like bad news, it really is good news. Because lower back pain is traditionally caused by daily activities, habits and movements, correcting those things may alleviate the pain, too. We've collected 12 common activities and habits (or lack thereof) that may be causing your back pain, and the quick fixes that could help you find relief.

1. You sit at a desk all day.

    The Cause: Sitting may seem comfortable, but doctors warn sitting puts about 40% more pressure on the spine than standing which can hurt your back. Considering the fact that workers spend more time than ever before sitting at a desk, it would stand to reason that back pain is becoming more and more common. 

    The Fix: When you are sitting at your desk be mindful of your posture. Doctors suggest sitting at a 135-degree angle. This angle, which is slightly reclined, will reduce the pressure on your spine. While it's not an angle you'll be able to achieve at all times, experts suggest sitting back when you take a phone call, or when you are reading a report. Even small breaks from being hunched over can be helpful to the spine.

    2. You spend a lot of time in the car.

      The Cause: Similar in nature to the desk issue, long commutes in the car can also cause lower back pain. When you sit to drive your chest muscles tighten and your shoulders round. Many people find themselves slumping forward, almost in a subconscious, aggressive position hen driving.This position can hurt your back in the long run. 

      The Fix: While cutting down on your commute would be one way to fix this problem, that' likely not an option. Doctors suggest you can get some relief by keeping your posture in mind when driving. Sit at a 90 degree angle when driving, and sit as close to the steering wheel as possible. 

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      3. You don't hit the gym enough.

        The Cause: When you are in pain the last thing you want to do is head to the gym, but there are some benefits to getting active even with back pain. New research suggests that about 40% of people ease up on physical activity when back pain strikes, but that reaction might actually make their condition worse.

        The Fix: Get in the gym, or try and fit an activity plan into your day, even if you hurt your back. Doctors suggest even frequent walks can help back pain, and it will help to abolish the stiffness that is commonly felt in those with lower back problems. Being active can also help you shed extra weight, which might exacerbate the pain.

        4. You Think Yoga is for New-age Hippies

          The Cause: Yoga has a ton of health benefits, but many people think yoga is reserved for people who are into the “new-age” movement. That simply isn't the case. Yoga is a great exercise for those suffering from pain, and getting involved will help you build stronger core muscles that will help to support your spine, even when you hurt your back, you'll recover quicker. 

          The Fix: Get involved in a yoga class, whether at your local gym, the YMCA or at a private studio. You can speak with the instructor beforehand and describe your back pain so they know where you are working from, and how they can best accommodate your needs. Remember to check with your doctor before you begin any new exercise regime, though.

          5. You're doing too many crunches, or you are doing them all wrong.

          The Cause: A strong core protects your back, however, if you are doing crunches improperly you may be doing more harm than good. Doctors suggest that traditional sit-ups and crunches are notoriously difficult to complete with proper form, an improper form can put further strain on an already strained back. If you hurt your back by doing sit-ups continuing can cause more damage. 

          The Fix: If you are truly dedicated to your ab workout, simply slow it down and be mindful of your form during each crunch. Proper form can make all the difference in the world. If you aren't committed to crunches, you can ditch them entirely for different abdominal workouts. Planks, for example, are easier to execute and might actually be more effective in strengthening the core and banishing belly fat. They may also offer relieve if you hurt your back recently by helping you build the muscles you need to support your body. 

          6. Your diet is seriously lacking

            The Cause: The people who eat best generally have less back pain. Your weight and your heart health can play into how your back feels, too, advise experts. A recent Finnish study found that individuals with health arteries were less likely to experience back pain. Better circulation is simply better for the back.

            The Fix: Get on a health kick and focus on eating foods that naturally reduce inflammation. The avoidance of caffeine, processed foods, and preservatives and additives can make your back feel better relatively quickly. Experts suggest a diet that is higher in whole grains, soy, lean protein and vegetables for those looking to get their back, well, back on track.

            7. You're carrying too much excess baggage

              The Cause: Heavy bags, whether they are tote bags or backpacks might be the cause of your back pain. According to experts, handbags are especially bad because the weight is not evenly distributed and the body automatically attempts to right that by lifting the shoulder carrying the bad. The natural compensation your body executes can actually hurt your back. 

              The Fix: While not carrying a handbag is probably your best option, that probably isn't feasible. To alleviate pain from carrying a handbag try and keep it as light as possible. The American Chiropractic Association suggests making sure your bag weighs less than 10% of your body weight, so if you way 100lbs, your bag should be no more than 10 pounds. Doctors also suggest switching back and forth between shoulders periodically, too. This will help the spine stay in proper form.

              8. Your mattress has seen better days.

                The Cause: Mattresses generally have a life of about 10 years, according to the National Sleep Foundation, but doctors suggest replacing your mattress around the five year mark. Over time a mattress will degrade and change from constant use. This can cause pressure points to develop that can cause back pain. A bad mattress may hurt your back, or exacerbate existing back pain. 

                The Fix: Replace your mattress if you haven't done so in years. You'll want to aim for a “middle-of-the-road” mattress. That is, one that isn't too hard or too soft. Research also suggests that those who sleep with a pillow between or under the knees can help relieve back pain, too. If you sleep on your stomach you should tuck a pillow under your stomach and hips to alleviate pressure on the back

                9. You aren't wearing proper footwear

                  The Cause: Flip-flops and high heels do nothing to stabilize the foot. As you walk your feet are not stable;  this can lead to back pain as your back attempts to compensate for the instability in the foot. To add insult to injury heels also force the back to arch, and makes the muscles around your back to work harder to stabilize your body. High heels can hurt your back if you wear them for an extended period of time. Flip-flops can cause pain as well. 

                  Fix it: Instead of wearing sky high heels all day long, consider only wearing them in the office, or out to dinner. Doctors advice patients not to walk long distances in heels or flip-flops. If you love the look of heels consider using flats for commuting needs, the switch out into your favorite stilettos when you get to your desired location.

                  10. You try to walk it off.

                  The Cause: When you attempt to ignore the pain and walk it off your back will tighten more in a attempt to stabilize the back and help you move past it. A psychological study found that people who attempt to ignore pain or shock actually tense more than people who acknowledge those feelings. 

                  The Fix: Acknowledge the pain and learn to work with. It sounds strange, but acknowledging that you are in pain can actually help you accept it and relax quicker. Psychologists suggest that patients remain neutral when acknowledging their pain. 

                  11. You don't know how to relax. 

                  The Cause: People who are stressed out don't relax as much as those who are not stressed. When you are stressed, whether you are stressed about work, an overbooked schedule, or the state of your finances, your body instinctively clenches. 

                  The Fix: Set some time aside each evening to just veg out and relax. You can also consider massage therapy if that is up your alley to alleviate the tense muscles. Spend some time each night writing down your feelings, listening to music and relaxing. When you let go of the stress mentally, your body will let go of the stress, too.

                  12. You're a TV addict

                  The Cause: when you sit in front of a television or computer your back is naturally flexed. If you stay in this position for too long you back will become sore and stiff. A research study found that those who spent 15 hours or more in front of a television a week were more likely to experience back pain. The study suggest this is due to posture, as well as TV viewers getting less exercise, in general, than more active individuals.

                  Fix it: Turn off the TV or a bit and get active. Try to limit your viewing to your absolute favorite shows and use the commercials breaks as a time for a quick walk around the house. This will elevate the pressure on your back, and you can spend your new found time getting some exercise or partaking in a different, less pain-inducing activity.

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                  Topics: back pain relief, back pain treatment, general back pain, back, back pain remedies, lower back pain, Chronic Back Pain, back spasms, causes of back pain