If you’ve ever had a painful back problem, you know all about the frustrations and discomfort. Did you know that most incidences of missed work are due to back pain? Chronic back pain disrupts many aspects of your daily life, including sleeping, hobbies and even sex.
Your doctors at the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI) understand that your back pain usually doesn’t result from one single event, but from a combination of injuries and lifestyle choices. While you can’t always prevent an injury, it makes sense to change whatever habits may be causing or aggravating your pain to better protect your back.
Lifestyle Habits that Contribute to Back Pain
When your everyday routines become second nature, you often don’t think about their cumulative effect on your back and the rest of your body. But the effects of harmful tendencies and habits do accumulate. Protect your back by stopping the habits that lead to back pain, such as:
- Sitting for long periods of time. If you have a long commute, a desk job or a significant streaming habit, you need to get up out of that chair regularly. Sitting places more pressure on your spine than standing. And when you’re seated for long periods of time, it keeps you in a slumped or cramped position. Make sure your computer or steering wheel is within easy reach. Keep your car seat at a 90-degree angle and your desk chair at a 135-degree angle. Stop often to stand and stretch your legs and back. Poor posture contributes significantly to lingering back pain.
- Consistently handling high stress situations or holding onto hurt feelings. When office politics, bad news or hurtful words plague your thoughts, your body reacts by clenching. Your muscles cramp, sometimes unconsciously. These contracted muscles, especially in your neck and back, need relief and relaxation. Massage, exercise, yoga, journaling and meditation all help you find ways to release stress and frustration, allowing your body the chance to relax and rejuvenate.
- Not getting sufficient exercise and stretching. One habit that goes a long way to protect your back is consistent and healthy exercise. Your body needs to move often and in multiple ways to remain healthy and supple. Vigorous walking, jogging, swimming or biking develops good muscle tone and raises your heart rate to promote a strong circulatory system. Those who exercise also develop better posture. A consistent stretching routine like yoga protects your back as you move in multiple ways to strengthen muscles and increase flexibility.
- Neglecting your daily self–care habits. A lumpy mattress and a poor diet reduce your body’s ability to rebound quickly. If your mattress is seven years old or older, it’s time to find a replacement. Your SSI back specialist usually recommends a mattress that isn’t too hard or too soft to protect your back. And a healthy diet, with enough nutrients, allows your muscles and tendons to repair themselves while providing the flexibility and strength needed to prevent back pain.
- Wearing improper shoes and accessories. Carrying a heavy handbag or backpack over one shoulder stresses your back. The extra weight skews your body to one side, cramping your muscles. Carry a lighter bag or divide the weight between two bags, one on each shoulder to protect your back. Additionally, wearing high heels places significant stress on your legs, back, shoulders and neck because of the unnatural position of your ankles and feet. Flip-flops, on the other hand, don’t provide adequate support and cushioning. If you walk long distances or stand for any length of time, wear supportive flats or sneakers. Rely on shoes made specifically for running or other sports you do.
Protect your back with good, conscious, daily habits to minimize discomfort and maximize your energy for the things you care most about. Talk to your SSI physician today about ways to overcome your harmful habits. You can have a pain-free life!