According to the American Chiropractic Association, as much as 80 percent of the population will experience back pain in their lives — with low back pain the single leading cause of disability worldwide.
The good news is most cases aren’t caused by serious conditions, meaning you can take charge of the situation sans oodles of Tylenol. Here’s how.
Back pain and I go way back: from the volleyball game in high school where I lost my ability to duck to helping a friend move her couch and ending up underneath it, it always seemed to strike at the most inappropriate (and embarrassing) times. Little did I realize it wasn’t my back that was the problem — it was me. My everyday choices were causing back pain to erupt onto the scene like an uninvited guest.
Even though it seems like the back pain you’re experiencing showed up overnight, the reality is it’s been developing for years without you even realizing it. Your back is essentially lashing out at everything you’ve ever done wrong (much like we do with our boyfriends). Here’s the inside scoop on the habits that might be causing your back pain, and how to create a pain-free lifestyle:
Wearing high heels
Heels that are higher than 3 inches put seven times more pressure on your feet, causing a disturbance in your spine’s alignment. Plus, almost half of women who wear heels will experience a foot injury, which can also lead to back pain. If you’re a sucker for pumps, opt for wearing heels less than 3 inches.
Carrying a heavy purse
Not surprisingly, the average woman’s purse weighs 16 pounds. Carrying that sucker on your shoulder everywhere you go inevitably leads to back pain, creating imbalances that strain your shoulders and back muscles. To avoid this, make sure your purse is always less than 10 percent of your body weight.
We all know slouching is bad for your posture, but did you know it puts 100 extra pounds of stress on your lower back? Yikes! When you slouch, your ligaments and muscles strain to stay balanced, and the eventual muscle fatigue equals back pain. Practice good posture until it’s an automatic habit — buy an ergonomic chair for your office to get you started. (If you have to, picture your mom on your shoulder nagging you to sit up straight… but only if you have to.)
Sitting too much
Sitting is slouching’s BFF. It’s an especially bad habit for those who work in an office and/or have a long commute. Sitting too much and for too long ends up causing posture-related back pain. Ideally, you should change your position every 20 to 30 minutes. Get up and stretch, take phone calls while standing or take a walk around the building. On long trips, get out of the car and stretch at least every 90 minutes.
Stressing yourself out
Leading a stressful lifestyle — always worrying, always hurrying, skipping meals, staying up late — causes the muscles in your back to tighten, and in some cases spasm. Just because you’re used to your routine doesn’t mean your back is (or should be). Make time for relaxation and focus on keeping your back in shape with activities like stretching, yoga and exercises that strengthen your core and back muscles.
Pushing yourself physically
Physical activities like seasonal chores and trying new workouts can strain your back muscles since they’re not used to how much pressure you’re suddenly placing on them. Learn how to lift, push and pull while putting as little strain on your back as possible. While relaxing or sleeping, use ergonomic pillows to support your neck and back.