These Habits Are Hurting Your Back

Back pain is one of the most common reasons adults end up at the doctor.  The emergency room sees approximately 6 million cases a year, making it the 3rd most expensive disorder in terms of health care costs.  About two thirds of all adults have had lower back pain at some point in their lives, which adds up to it being the 2nd most common ambulatory medicine complaint, the 5th most common reason for hospitalization, and the 3rd most common reason for surgery.

Back pain is most commonly a mechanical issue that stems from age related wear and tear on our spinal discs. That being said, only about 20% of patients with back pain can be given a precise diagnosis, because the causes are varied. A pinched nerve can also cause back pain.  If this is the cause, pain tends to be sharp and localized.  Pinched nerves can occur through spinal stenosis, spinal degeneration, or herniated discs.

Other things that can cause back pain are muscle strains, myofascial pain and fibromyalgia. Bone pain can be caused by osteoporosis, or bone infections can also present as back pain.  Similarly, back pain can be a symptom of a medical issue stemming from nearby.  For example, kidney infections are often accompanied by back pain.

What behaviors can lead to back pain, or make it worse?

1.       Sitting: puts 40% more pressure on your spine, plus most of us don’t maintain proper posture while at ours desks or in our cars. To fix this, lean back to decrease compression of the discs, and get up and walk around for a few minutes every half hour.  While driving, sit closer to the wheel, which can ease pressure on the back.

2.       Not exercising: research shows that people tend to decrease activity when they have back pain. This might seem like the right thing to do, but the reality is that moving helps speed up the healing process.  So when your back hurts resist the urge to be inactive, and take frequent walks which eases stiffness.  Some studies have shown that dynamic stretching, and yoga in particular eases lower-back pain faster than conventional exercises.

Aside from modifying behavior, or increasing exercise, treatment revolves around reducing pain and inflammation.  NSAIDS are the first line treatment to relieve mild to moderate pain.  Some pain might require strong medications to control pain, for those people doctor prescribed muscle relaxants might provide more relief.