Almost everyone experiences back pain at some point in their lives. In fact, recent estimates suggest that a third of the population — as many as 100 million Americans — experience chronic back pain. Sometimes the pain can only be alleviated medically or surgically, but for many others, simple changes can help relieve or even eliminate the pain caused by injuries to the soft tissue or strains to the muscle. Here are the top 10 back pain causes, and what you can do about them.
Carrying too much weight in your body can cause constant pressure on your spine and the muscles supporting it. Extra weight, especially in your midsection, results in a shift in posture causing back pain. Dropping those extra pounds can work wonders in helping relieve that pressure.
Lack of exercise
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the major contributing factors of back pain causes, in addition to the aforementioned weight gain. The lack of movement itself creates soreness and stiffness. Exercising regularly strengthens the back and abdominal muscles supporting your spine, making it easier to hold up the spinal column, improving posture and lessening the pain. Talk to your doctor to find out about what exercises would be best for you.
In a culture of smart phones, long commutes, and computer monitors, our shoulders slouch and heads protrude out instead of staying in proper alignment directly over the shoulders and hips, as they are intended. This misalignment puts undue pressure on the back. Consider getting a standing desk at work or practice pulling your shoulder blades together when you notice you are slumping. Being aware of your posture is the first step, with correction over time you may feel that back pain begins to subside.
Your mattress and/or sleeping habits
A worn-out or badly made mattress can cause increased pressure on parts of your spine; consider getting a new mattress if that is the case. However, a lot of back problems are generated by sleep position. If you find that your natural sleeping position exacerbates back pain, consider using pillows for additional support. For example, if you prefer to sleep on your side put a pillow between your knees to help maintain the natural curve of the spine. Putting a pillow under your knees helps alleviate pressure points if you are a back sleeper. And if you must sleep on your stomach consider using a pillow under your pelvis.
If your shoes aren’t providing enough support or they force your feet into unnatural positions, they can cause pain in your back as well as in your feet. Wearing high heels not only puts the foot into an unnatural position that impacts all of the muscles and ligaments up the back of the leg but it also changes the distribution of weight. If you are already prone to back pain be sure to replace worn-out shoes, choose shoes with a good arch and heel support, and avoid high heels, if possible.
Your backpack or handbag
Simply put, the heavier your load, the more strain and misalignment it causes to your back. Try to carry as little as possible on your back and shoulders. Carry a smaller, handheld purse if you can. If you carry a backpack, don’t let it hang off one shoulder or the other, but carry it equally on both shoulders to distribute the weight or consider a rolling bag for longer trips.
Did you know smoking cigarettes is a major cause of back pain? Nicotine adversely affects blood flow and circulation to the back. It also inhibits your body’s ability to absorb calcium, which strengthens the bones. Both of these issues can result in premature aging of the spine. Stop smoking now to avoid complications later.
Stress Or Depression
When you’re stressed or depressed, your body releases cortisol, which can cause tension in the back and shoulder muscles. It also encourages the build-up of belly fat, causing weight gain and causing your spine to compensate for the forward weight. Treating depression and practicing stress-reduction exercises can alleviate these issues.
Trauma or injury
Anytime your body experiences a sudden jolt or impact, especially one you weren’t braced for, as you would in a car crash, it can injure your spine or the surrounding muscles. Even if you don’t experience immediate symptoms, an impact can throw your spine out of alignment, causing back pain over time. Getting checked by a doctor after any impact, trauma or injury can reduce both your immediate and long-term risks for back pain.
Other spine conditions
Sometimes back pain is caused by specific medical conditions that may occur for genetic or degenerative reasons. Examples might be scoliosis, spinal stenosis, herniated discs and a variety of other conditions. These conditions may require some sort of medical treatment to correct the issue or manage the pain. If left untreated, these conditions can result in exacerbated, short term or long term, back pain.
Many of the back pain causes listed above, if addressed under the supervision of your physician, can result in better overall health in addition to relieving back pain. But if back pain persists or you would like to learn more about common back pain causes and how they can be treated, contact Polaris Spine & Neurosurgery Center today at 404-256-2633.