Curejoy Expert Dipti Mothay Explains:
Back pain symptoms can range in intensity from mild to severe. Back pain can last less than six weeks (acute), or it can last for more than three months (chronic). Experts estimate that about 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in their lives .
What Causes Back Pain?
Accidents and sports injuries are the most common causes of chronic back pain. Other conditions commonly linked to back pain include: muscle or ligament strain, ruptured disks, arthritis, skeletal irregularities, osteoporosis, poor posture, obesity and psychological stress. Pain in the back can also be a direct result of some disease of the internal organs such as kidney stones, kidney infections, blood clots or bone loss .
Lifestyle Tweaks To Manage Back Pain
Wrong sitting posture or lack of adequate back support generally puts a lot of stress on muscles supporting the spine. If left untreated, medically or through lifestyle changes, this stress eventually leads to acute or chronic back pain.
For correction of poor posture, it is important to determine where improvement is needed, such as when sitting in an office chair.
- Avoid leaning to one side, crossing the legs and hunching the shoulders .
- When you’re sitting, try to keep your chin behind your chest bone. When your chin is too far forward, you will inadvertently teach your hip flexors to remain abnormally short and you set yourself up for increased compression and degeneration.
- Do not stick your bottom out while standing.
- Don’t choose heels, as these can cause you to have a sway back, which will put more pressure on the lower back. Too much pronation (the normal inward roll of your foot) causes your arch to collapse which stresses the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your foot. Some of the stress in your foot is transferred up your leg and into your back. This often causes pain in your feet or back.
- Make sure that your shoes fit perfectly in length and width .
- Keep your body in perfect alignment maintaining the spine’s natural curvature, neck straight and shoulders parallel with hips.
- Balance your weight evenly on both feet and keep your legs straight and knees relaxed. Pull in your abdomen.
- When you hang on one hip or you’re leaning on one leg, it can cause strain on your lower back instead of using your core muscles. Avoid this.
- Avoid walking with your head bent over or leaning backward. To correct your posture, ensure you don’t look too down or up.
- Straighten up, make sure your shoulders are relaxed, stomach tucked in and check your alignment.
- Don’t go overboard with your walking routine. It can end up causing back pain.
- Take a break, stretch and do a warm-up before and after walking.
- When you sleep on your back, the lower back can arch and increase pressure on the spine.
- Make sure your knees are bent upwards slightly.
- Use a few pillows underneath the knees so you can stick to this position.
- If you sleep on the sides, draw your knees slightly up toward the chest and place a pillow in between your legs.
- Sleeping on your stomach can be hard on your back. Reduce the strain in your back by placing a pillow under the pelvis and lower abdomen. Try sleeping without a pillow if you can.
- Also, make sure your mattress isn’t too soft and is strong enough.
- If you experience any kind of pain from doing an exercise for more than 15 minutes, you must stop and consult a doctor.
- Avoid toe touches as it can put greater stress on the spine. It can also over stretch your lower back muscles.
- Although you think sit-ups can strengthen the abdominal muscles, most of us use hip muscles while doing sit-ups. Avoid sit ups as they can put a lot of pressure on the spine.
- Always maintain right form during exercise and avoid putting the strain on your back by arching it forward or backwards.
- Weight training can cause stress on the lower back. Consider using a training machine rather than free weights for certain weightlifting exercises.
- Use back supporting belts when lifting heavy weights in the gym.
- When you lift heavy luggage or shopping bags, make sure your feet are apart, with one leg slightly forward to maintain balance. When lifting, let your legs take the strain – bend your back, knees and hips slightly but do not stoop or squat. Tighten your stomach muscles to pull your pelvis in. Do not straighten your legs before lifting as you may strain your back on the way up.
- When you’re carry shopping bags, evenly distribute the weight on both sides of the body.
- If you’re dragging a heavy object across the floor, push it rather than pull it.
- Also, use a well designed backpack that is worn over both shoulders and avoid side bags.
Excess body weight puts extra strain on your back. According to studies, people who are overweight often are at greater risk for back pain, joint pain and muscle strain than those who are not obese . It is thus important to keep your weight in a range that is healthy for your height, bone structure and age.
- Eat a balanced nutritious diet, minimize intake of saturated fat and “empty” calorie foods.
- Replace junk food with high quality, nutritious food .
- Consume a plant based diet including flax and chia seeds.
- Drink sufficient water.
- Consume foods rich in calcium.
When you’re pregnant, you must ensure taking extra care.
- Consider wearing a maternity support belt. Although there’s insufficient evidence on how it’s helpful, most women find it useful.
- Sleep on the sides and not the back. Keep one or both knees bent. Consider using pregnancy pillows under the abdomen or behind the back.
- Maintain a good posture during your pregnancy. Stand up straight, hold your chest high, keep your shoulders back and relaxed and don’t lock your knees.
- When you sit, place a pillow behind your lower back.
- Try some pregnancy exercises or pregnancy yoga to strengthen your back and prevent back pain.
We generally tend to hunch forward and strain the neck and lower back while working.
- Firstly, try getting an ergonomic chair at your workplace or you can use other accessories to better support a good posture.
- Make sure your lower back is curved naturally forward and it does not slump outwards.
- Don’t sit in the same posture for a long time. Get up, walk around and take breaks.
- Place you feet firmly or use a footrest. Dangling feet keep a constant strain on the lower back.
It is important to adopt a good driving posture to avoid back pain.
- Adjust the rear view mirrors to avoid rotating your back and neck too much.
- Adjust the lumbar support of the back rest in such a way that the small of your back is well supported.
- In case you’re driving for 20 minutes or more, adjust your seat in such a way that there’s limited pressure on your spine.
Mobile Phone Use
Use of mobile phones can contribute to neck and lower back pain.
- When you tilt down to look at your phone or bend over, it puts the neck in an unnatural position. The weight of the head needs to be supported by the muscles of the back. The longer you stay in that position, the muscles become tired leading to fatigue and muscle pain. This condition is called “Text Neck”.
- Try limiting use of mobile phones and maintain your posture when you do.
- Acute, Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Clinical Symptoms, Absenteeism and Working Environment- Vallfors B. 1985
- NINDS Back pain information page, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- Posture, The Lumbar spine and back pain, International Encyclopedia of Rehabilitation
- Are Your Shoes Causing Back Pain, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
- American Obesity Association. “Health effects of obesity.” AOA Fact Sheets. 2002
- Weight loss for back pain, The Back pain authority
Also read: What Foods Should I Eat To Fight Back Pain?