Back pain is one of the most common medical conditions globally, sending more patients to doctors than any other illness except for the common cold—and around 56% of individuals experiencing lower backaches say symptoms can disrupt their everyday lives. There are many possible causes of back pain, including non-invasive solutions you may be doing in your daily life. Some of the seemingly unimportant habits you do may be taking a more significant toll on your back than you think.
That said, here are the top 13 everyday back-breaking habits that may be the reason behind your aches—and what you can do about them.
Prolonged and Hunched Sitting
Sitting down for extended periods can be detrimental to your spine, specifically when staying in the hunched position for an extended period. It can stress your back muscle and neck alongside your spinal cord as it goes against the natural alignment of your spine, leading to severe back pain. Slouching is inevitable, primarily when you work at an office job or drive long roads for a living. You can easily prevent this by sitting straight in a chair supporting your back and setting the height to let your feet rest naturally on the floor.
However, no matter how straight or perfect you sit down, your back won't like sitting for long periods. That's why it's best to get up and gently stretch your neck and move your head around every half-hour. Doing this gives your body a break, easing any pain or spasm you may be experiencing.
Eating Inflammatory Foods
Overindulging in any junk foods, high-calorie snacks, and sweets can trigger inflammation in your body, leading to many back issues. These foods and beverages include anything with high contents of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, artificial trans fat, vegetable and seed oils, refined carbohydrates, excessive alcoholic drinks, and processed meat. It's best to eat foods high in fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Plus, protein is also a great way to give your muscles a boost.
Smoking cigarettes has never been a good thing, and one of the many side effects it has is damaging your spine. Most individuals don't realize that smoking can affect their bones, leading to premature disc degeneration that causes severe back pain. Smoking can inhibit the circulation to the disc, dehydrating it and making it challenging for these discs to absorb the nutrients required to stay healthy.
The backbone or spinal vertebrae is lined with discs and cushions that can absorb stress and shock during excess movements. Degenerative disc disease happens when these discs dry out and get damaged—and smoking increases the risk of degenerative disc disease.
The failure to participate in any physical activity, specifically abdominal strengthening exercises, can lead to poor posture and increased risk of developing lower back pain. An excellent exercise you can do to prevent back pain is Pilates or other core strengthening workouts that can increase your back muscles' stability. Cardiovascular activities like swimming and walking are also ideal as it improves flexibility.
Yoga is also a great option in easing back pain than other exercises such as running and strength training as it can decrease stress levels, as being excessively stressed out can trigger chronic pain. Doing various poses and breathwork can promote deep relaxation, helping your mind and back feel at ease.
Not Consuming Enough Calcium
It's widely known that calcium is vital in maintaining optimal bone health, and dairy products are some of the best natural sources of calcium. However, if you're lactose intolerant or can't handle milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products due to diarrhea, gas, and bloating, your bone health may begin to deteriorate since you won't be getting enough calcium. If your bones become soft, you may sustain several painful pressure factors in your spine.
Luckily, there are several sources of calcium, including leafy greens, fish with soft bones like salmon, and other processed calcium-enriched foods minus the dairy—allowing you to get ample amounts of calcium and keeping your bones strong. It's best to consume at least 4,000 mg every day if you're 50 years old or younger and bump it up to 1,200 mg if you're older than 50. If your body isn't consuming enough calcium despite having enough of the foods mentioned in your diet, talk about your doctor about taking calcium supplements.
Bad Sleeping Habits
The way you sleep can have a significant impact on your back. Sleeping on your back can be detrimental to your spine since if you're suffering from lower back pain, this position will place excess stress on the affected area. Besides fixing your sleeping position, make sure to sleep on a firm mattress to support your back while being soft enough to fit the shape of your body perfectly. The ideal mattress for you depends on how you sleep and whether you have existing back pain.
You can test out the bed and see if it's good for your back by placing your mattress on the floor for a few nights without the bedspring and see if it's not placing excess stress on your back.
As people grow older, gravity tends to work against us, causing the spine to compress, and having poor posture can worsen this issue, causing the spine to compress further, rounding the body, and troubling the disks, leading to severe pain. You can fight this by standing upright with your chest lifted and your shoulders down away from your ears, unloaded. Doing spine lengthening exercises like yoga stretches can effectively work against excess compression on the spine.
Gentle back bending and twisting alongside core strengthening exercises can provide ample muscular support to the spine, maintaining healthy posture long-term.
Living a Sedentary Lifestyle
Limiting your activity levels as part of pain management when experiencing severe back pain can be counterproductive, resulting in more pain. Exercising and generally moving around can increase blood flow to affected areas, decreasing inflammation and reducing muscle tension. Studies have shown that individuals who continue their everyday activities tend to have better flexibility than those who lie in bed all day long.
Plus, prolonged bed rest can increase pain and lead to several complications, ranging from depression, blood clots, and decreased muscle tone.
Drinking Excess Coffee
The high caffeine content in coffee and other caffeinated drinks can decrease calcium absorption, which, as mentioned earlier, is crucial in maintaining bone health, including the spine. Although studies may have mixed findings on the effect of caffeine on bone density and fracture risk, it's proven to limit calcium absorption. That's why it's best to take caffeine to a minimum.
Overeating and being a few extra pounds heavier can place excess strain on your back's bones and muscles, especially if you're gaining the weight quickly—shifting your entire center of gravity forward, putting additional pressure on your back. It's best to keep your weight under control, somewhere between 10 pounds of your ideal weight, to avoid the risk of developing back pain, as you're more likely to suffer from back pain if you're overweight or obese.
Carrying Heavy Bags
Professionals recommend that people never carry backpacks and purses weighing 10% more than their total body weight as it can badly hurt one's back. That's because heavyweights can place excess strain on your back and tire out muscles that you need to support your spine, affecting individuals who carry heavy bags all day long, including small children who usually lug many books to school.
It's best to use large, padded, and adjustable shoulder straps to spread the weight of the backpack and purse you're using evenly—and make sure to use both straps as slinging them on one side can cause even more strain.
Wearing High Heels
Individuals who frequently wear high-heeled shoes can spoil the curvature of their spine, placing pressure on the lower back, causing severe damage to the spinal cord. High heels can also lead to altered posture, causing even more damage. You may overuse your lower back muscles and harm your posture and spine, especially as you become older. So, if you often wear them at the office, make sure to bring a pair of flat walking shoes for commuting and perform regular stretches like rolling your feet on a tennis ball to prevent pain and strengthen your muscles.
The things you do in your daily routines can significantly impact your body, even if you don't know it. How you sit, stand, and walk can contribute to your spine's health and, in turn, your overall health. Familiarizing yourself with the back-breaking habits mentioned can help you avoid succumbing to back pain, live confidently and pain-free.
If you've broken all back-breaking habits but still experience discomfort, seeking professional help is ideal, and one of the best in the field is Dr. Dominic Lupori. He's a licensed and highly-experienced chiropractor in Greenville, SC, offering all-natural adjustments and tailored treatment plans, easing general back pain and helping patients live a healthier lifestyle, pain-free.
Book an appointment with Dr. Lupori today and receive the care you deserve, and get the pain-free and healthy lifestyle you yearn for with ease!