3 Common Causes of Back Pain

two active seniors sitting on a park bench next to their mountain bikes

At least 80% of Americans will experience lower back pain in their lifetimes1. At the same time, it can be a very tricky condition because there is often no specific cause. Anyone experiencing back pain that doesn’t go away for 4 or more weeks should always call their doctor. It may be linked to a specific medical condition. For everyone else that has the occasional back aches and pains, here are a few things that might be causing it.

1- Daily activities not done right

It’s true, your daily activities might be causing your back pain. Simple tasks like

  • picking up the kids,
  • taking out the trash, or
  • washing the dishes

can impact your spine if not done right. The movements of lifting, bending, and even standing if done incorrectly can lead to back pain.

Daily tips to help prevent back pain2:

  • Sitting: Sit in a high-back, firm chair with arm rests. Sitting on a soft couch or chair will tend to make you round your back and won’t support the curve of your back.
  • Driving: when driving (especially if you’re in the car for long periods of time) use a back support (lumbar roll) at the curve of your back. Your knees should be at the same level or higher than your hips.
  • Standing: stand with your head up, shoulders straight, chest forward, weight balanced evenly on both feet, and your hips tucked in. If standing for a long time, make sure you shift your weight on each leg from time to time.
  • Stooping, squatting, and kneeling: kneel when you have to go down as far as a squat for longer than a few seconds. For each of these positions, face the object, keep your feet apart, tighten your stomach muscles, and lower yourself using your legs.
  • Lifting: If you must lift objects, do not try to lift objects that are awkward or are heavier than 30 pounds. To pick up an object that is lower than the level of your waist, keep your back straight and bend at your knees and hips. Do not bend forward at the waist with your knees straight.

2- Screen Queens and Kings

Nine hours — that’s how long the average person spends hunched over or slouched in front of a screen each day3. Over the years, the amount of time spent sitting at your desk can take its toll on your back. Here are a few tips to help prevent that from happening4:

  • Get up and move at least once every 20 minutes. Set your screen saver to remind you to get up. Make a habit of going for a drink of water. When you answer the phone, stand up to stretch and change positions. There are also apps you can download onto your phone (or computer) to remind you to get up and stretch every so often.
  • Keep your spine properly aligned by holding reading material at eye level (when sitting or standing) rather than bending over.
  • Don’t lean over a desk or table to work.

3- People that have high risk for back pain tend to get back pain

Unsurprisingly, people at higher risk for back pain are more unlikely to develop it. Although anyone can develop back pain, here are some factors that increase your risk5:

Poor physical fitness. Back pain is more common in people who are not physically fit and don’t engage in any type of exercise.

Being overweight. Too much weight can stress the back and cause pain by making the body carry a heavier load than it otherwise should. Over time, this can lead to back pain.

Heredity. Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that affects the spine, can have a genetic component and may be passed down.

Your job. If you have to lift, push, or pull while twisting your spine, you may get back pain. Working at a desk all day and not sitting up straight may also result in back pain.

Smoking. Your body may not be able to get enough nutrients to the disks in your back if you smoke. Additionally, people who smoke are slow to heal, so back pain may last longer.

Here are some general things you can do to prevent back pain6:

  • Exercise more often. This will help to keep your back and core muscles strong.
  • Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you’re a few pounds overweight. When your body carries additional weight, you put extra pressure on all your joints and muscles. Extra weight also means that your spine has to support an additional load. It may lead to things like poor posture.
  • Keep a healthy diet. This includes getting enough fruits and vegetables, proteins, carbohydrates, and a moderate amount of fat. Supplements, especially those with calcium and Vitamin D, are a good way to make sure you’re meeting all of your dietary requirements on a daily basis.
  • Try to stand up straight and avoid heavy lifting when possible. If you do lift something heavy, bend your legs and keep your back straight.

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1- http://www.healthline.com/symptom/low-back-pain

2- Cleveland clinic. How to cope when you have low back pain. 2016. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_your_back_and_neck/hic_How_to_Cope_When_You_Have_Low_Back_Pain

3- Atelier – BNP Paribas group. The Average American Adult Spends 8 1/2 Hours a Day Staring into Screens. March 2009. http://www.atelier.net/en/trends/articles/average-american-adult-spends-8-12-hours-day-staring-screens

4- Neurophysiotherapy clinic. How to wreck your back. August 2016. http://www.orthoneurophysio.com/how-to-wreck-your-back/

5- WebMD. Low back pain – what increases your risk. May 2015. http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/tc/low-back-pain-what-increases-your-risk

6-  https://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/back_pain/back_pain_ff.asp

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