Millions of Americans suffer from back pain, one of the most common medical complaints for women and men. But even though it’s common, back pain can still have very different causes, affecting people in different ways.
A lot of people have habits that make their back pain worse. At Vulcan Pain Management, Victor Mendoza, MD, and his team help patients learn to reduce back pain using non-surgical pain management techniques, including simple lifestyle changes that could dramatically improve discomfort and function.
If you have back pain, here are five habits that can make your symptoms a lot worse.
You probably know smoking increases your risks of cancer, heart disease, and stroke, but you might not know it can take a toll on your back, too.
Smoking impairs circulation, which means your discs and other back components probably aren’t getting all the oxygen and other nutrients they need to stay healthy. That means your back is more vulnerable to muscle and tendon strains, disc problems, and other back-related issues. Plus, smoking makes it harder to stay active — number five on this list.
#2: Packing on extra pounds
About two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and each one is at an increased risk of developing back pain. That’s because carrying extra weight shifts your center of gravity, putting more strain on your back (especially your lower back).
The effect is especially dramatic when you carry those extra pounds around your belly or waist. Keeping your weight within about 10 pounds of your ideal weight is the best way to eliminate this risk factor.
#3: Carrying a heavy bag
Plenty of us carry heavy backpacks, briefcases, messenger bags, or duffels to work or the gym. It’s convenient, sure — but it can also take a significant toll on your back.
Heavy bags or any heavy object puts added strain on your spine. If the load is unbalanced — for instance, carrying a heavy bag by a single shoulder strap — the load is distributed unevenly across your back muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Uneven loads do two things: They increase the strain on both sides of your back, and they also shift your center of gravity, sometimes forcing your discs out of place. Repeatedly lifting heavy objects or lifting objects over your head can have the same effect.
#4: Poor posture
Your mom wasn’t just being bossy when she told you to “sit up straight.” She was giving you some good health advice, too.
Good posture helps your muscles (and other supportive components) give your back the support it needs to avoid strain and stress. If you spend a good part of your day hunched over a computer, desk, or smartphone (or slumped in front of the TV), there’s a good chance your back will pay the price.
#5: Not being active enough
If your back hurts, rest seems like the obvious answer. But while a couple of days of rest may help with some types of back pain (especially pain related to overexertion), resting for too long may result in muscle weakness that can make your pain worse.
To relieve pain and inflammation, gentle stretching and physical therapy can improve flexibility and strength while also relieving painful inflammation. Just be sure to talk to Dr. Mendoza before starting any exercise or therapy regimen since going the DIY route can cause serious injury to an already-strained back.
Don’t delay back pain treatment
Putting off medical treatment is another way to make your back pain worse, whether your pain is chronic or acute. If you have back pain, Dr. Mendoza can help with a custom treatment plan tailored to your needs. To start relieving your back pain, call the office or book a visit online today.