Do you feel like you’re waging a never-ending battle with back pain? You’re not alone. It is estimated that 80% of the population regularly suffers from back pain of some kind. Although acute pain may be brought on by injuries or accidents, chronic back pain is commonly brought on or exacerbated by everyday activities.
7 things you didn’t know were causing back pain:
- Pain Culprit: Your desk job
Cubicle dwellers everywhere can relate to this silent back breaker. Sitting at a desk staring at your computer screen all day puts more pressure on your discs than standing or walking.
Solution: It is important to take breaks throughout the day by standing, walking around or stretching. Make sure your monitor is at eye-level and adjust your chair so that your legs are bent at a 90˚ angle and your feet are flat on the floor. It is also helpful to invest in a good chair with lumbar support, or simply buy a lumbar cushion.
- Pain Culprit: You sleep on your stomach
Stomach sleeping flattens the natural curve of your spine and puts strain on your back and neck.
Solution: The most obvious way to solve this problem? Change up your sleeping position. Sleeping on your side is widely regarded as the healthiest position since it keeps the spine elongated and aligned. Back sleeping is also a good option, although it may cause increased snoring in certain people. It is also important to sleep on a medium mattress that provides enough support on your joints while not being too harsh on your hips and shoulders.
- Pain Culprit: You don’t strengthen your core
Strengthening your “core” muscle group is imperative to supporting your body and relieving stress and strain to your back.
Solution: Incorporate core-building exercises into your workout routine, such as plank moves, lunges, crunches and leg lifts. Try a Pilates, Yoga or “Barre” class, which all focus on core strength.
- Pain Culprit: You’re wearing the wrong shoes
Most of us know that stiletto heels are bad for your back, but it turns out your stylish flats could also be doing harm. Footwear with little to no arch support (such as sandals, flip flops or ballet flats) can lead to bad foot, knee and back problems over time.
Solution: Don’t despair, fashionistas. Try alternating shoe styles throughout the week and avoid wearing the same pair for multiple days in a row. Make sure your shoes fit properly and aim for those with better arch and heel support. An orthotic insert may also provide comfort.
- Pain Culprit: You’re carrying the world on your shoulders
Carrying a heavy purse (or man-bag, no judgment) over your shoulder puts uneven pressure on your neck and spine.
Solution: Popular large bag styles make it especially tempting to throw anything and everything into your purse. Always be prepared, right? The American Chiropractic Association advises that you should not be carrying more than 10% of your body weight. Try a purse-purge and remove anything you don’t actually need. (It’s amazing what you’ll find at the bottom of your bag when you do this. Loose mints, anyone?). It is also recommended that you find a bag with a long, wide strap that you can carry messenger style which distributes the weight evenly over your shoulders.
- Pain Culprit: Your phone is glued to your palm
Admit it. You’re addicted to your mobile device. But constantly looking down at your smart phone to text, check emails and post photos could be killing your neck and back. In fact, the phrase “Text Neck” was coined in 2008 for this modern-day malady.
Solution: Take note of your posture and make sure you sit up straight with your spine tall and your neck in alignment. Bring your device upward and look down with your eyes instead of your entire head. It important to stretch your neck and back to maintain strength and range of motion. Try moving your head in each direction and hold for 10 seconds and repeat several times a day. You could also just consider giving your phone a break. It’s probably down to 9% battery by now anyway.
- Pain Culprit: You’re not getting enough activity
If your back is aching, chances are you are trying to take it easy and give it some rest. Although lying down lessens the stress on your spine, too much rest can actually backfire (pun very much intended.)
Solution: You don’t have to ditch the bed or couch completely. Lying down for a couple hours during the day won’t hurt, but studies have shown that back pain sufferers who participate in light activity reported faster recoveries, decreased pain and better spirits than those who stayed sedentary. Low impact exercises such as swimming and yoga help boost blood flow, reduce stiffness and maintain strength without putting too much strain on your body.
Tame the Pain:
If your pain lasts longer than a few days, it is always recommended that you see your doctor to check it out. Many physicians will recommend the following therapies to help ease your back pain:
- You can take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) to help stave off pain. But be cautious of taking NSAIDs for long periods of time as they can cause potentially harmful side effects. Your doctor may recommend a prescription pain medication for a short period of time if necessary.
- Using cold and compression therapy is the safest method for pain relief since it comes without side effects. Cold therapy has been proven to decrease pain and swelling and help speed healing, especially in acute injuries. Adding active compression therapy is even better than cold therapy alone since it increases blood flow and brings oxygen to the affected area, speeding recovery. PowerPlay offers two styles of cold compression back wraps, which can be found here.
- Some doctors will recommend heat therapy for chronic pain. It is important not to use heat on new injuries as it could cause additional swelling. Ask your doctor if heat therapy is right for you, and take note that the PowerPlay gel packs can be heated as well! Directions on how to heat our gel packs are here.
- Find the right active/rest balance for you. Yoga, Pilates, swimming and strength training help improve your mobility and build muscle to support your back.
- Explore other options to take care of your back pain such as physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, massage and acupuncture.