Back pain is the most common musculoskeletal complaint in the United States. More than 90% of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their lives, according to the American Medical Association.
“Unfortunately, low back pain is a by-product of industrialized nations and aging. We have become much more sedentary and consume more high fat and high calorie meals than our predecessors leading to weight gain, which puts undue pressure on the skeleton and spine,” Dr. Kern Singh, M.D., a professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Rush University Medical Center, tells Newsmax. “The active lifestyle of our ancestors has given way to modern technology and conveniences leading to obesity, a weakened musculoskeletal system, and increased rates of spinal disc degeneration. All of these changes culminate in an increased rate of low back pain in the American population.”
While some causes of back pain are obvious — such as a sports injury or an accident — there are other more subtle causes that may be contributing to your aching back, as well. Here are some examples.
- Wallets. According to Health Central, sciatica, a sharp radiating pain that runs down the buttocks, can be caused by sitting on an overstuffed wallet.
- Your lifting form. Any activity that requires heavy lifting, particularly in a bent over and flexed position, can lead to a lower back injury. Even with proper form, the spinal discs are loaded with forces five times your body weight, which may result in disc herniations and low back pain. When you pick up an object from the floor, make sure you squat, keeping your spine straight, and use your powerful leg muscles to assist, says Singh.
- Your posture at work. Slouching or hunching over a desk puts compression on the spinal discs. That is why your back hurts after a long plane or car ride. You may want to try a standing desk, says Singh, or take frequent breaks during the day by standing, stretching, and walking around.
- Your mattress. “While there is limited evidence to suggest a particular mattress is better than another, I often recommend choosing a mattress that is comfortable — either soft or firm — that allows you to get a good night’s sleep,” says Singh. Disrupted sleep can aggravate lower back issues.
- Cell phones. Americans use over two trillion minutes of wireless communication each year. Most of us arch our necks to talk on the phone, which puts our spines in an awkward position that can lead to back pain over time, according to Health Central.
- Your wardrobe. Proper footwear at work is especially important for those who must stand for long periods of time. Singh prefers comfortable hard-soled shoes to reduce the force transmitted to the lower back. Dr. Kaliq Chang, M.D., an interventional pain management specialist at the Atlantic Spine Center in New Jersey and New York, says that carrying a heavy bag or wearing an unsupportive bra can result in low back pain.
- Your exercise habits. Back pain is more common among people who are inactive. “You want to build strength in the muscles that surround the spine to stabilize it and prevent injuries from happening,” says Chang. Singh recommends core stabilization exercises such as yoga and Pilates to reduce your risk of lower back injuries.
- Your weight. “Being overweight increases your risk of developing chronic back pain because of the excessive pressure on the spine,” says Chang.
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