Oh, My Aching Back!

I remember the first time it happened to me. I was on vacation and I reached down to pick up my purse off the bed and rip! OUCH! I thought I was going to pass out from the pain. What the heck just happened? I found out I pulled a muscle in my lower back. People tell me it comes with age. I never had back issues in my life. What about you? They say that four out of five people will experience lower back pain and that in most cases, like mine, they know what caused it, i.e. they lifted something improperly, slept in a weird position or, like me, was doing something considered normal and it just happened.

Lower back pain is one of the most common causes of disability and frequent doctor visits, and is often initiated by factors most people can fix. Can you guess what triggers your back pain? The answers may surprise you.

  • You carry your weight in the front/middle. Extra weight means you are carrying around extra pounds, which puts stress on the back. But it is WHERE you are carrying it that is most impactful. Those extra pounds in your belly make your pelvis tilt, which in turn, causes your spine to curve and voila! pressure on the back. The remedy? Exercise those large and small back muscles. For instance, simple lunges use both your lower back muscles and your butt muscles to build stability. Losing weight also helps take the pressure off.
  • Look down. That’s right. Your feet are a culprit. If you have bad feet or you walk with pressure on one foot versus another, it is all offsetting for your gait. And that will throw your entire body balance off, and thus put undue pressure on your back. Ouch! In fact, a podiatrist or your family doctor should check any pain that affects your gait—injured knee, a twisted ankle or arthritis in your legs. You may have more than one issue.
  • Love your phone? It doesn’t love you. Chatting on your cell phone or landline for long periods of time not only puts a crimp in your neck, but also travels long distance down your spine. Did you know that bending your neck to read or text can put an extra sixty pounds of force on your spine.

I wondered why my neck hurts at the end of a workday. And when this poor posture is combined with any arthritis issues and/or spinal disc degeneration, the impact is back pain. So what to do?

Make sure you take breaks between phone calls or phone work. Keep your head straight and eyes down. I have started to use an earpiece (headphones will also do the trick) so I do not have to bend my neck on long conference calls. Good posture also does not hurt. Shoulders back and face forward!

  • You put your right hip in…. Yes, that hip, and it’s causing issues. If you tend to sit around, whether it’s office work or at home, you can be assured that steady sitting will be a root  cause of lower back pain
  • Sitting can put an absorbent amount of pressure on your spine and, depending HOW you sit, such as slouched, leaning forward, etc., the pressure more than doubles. In this case, it is what you don’t know that is hurting you. Time to loosen those hips with this quick tip: kneeling on the floor, spread your legs apart as far as you can then roll your upper body forward so your elbows and forearms are on the floor. STRETCH! Doesn’t that feel great??!
  • Last one: you’ve got the blues. Gray, rainy weather can make us feel lethargic and down.

And that can affect other parts of your body. Researchers found those suffering from depression are least likely to exercise or move around and typically have interrupted sleep, both contributing to back issues. If needed, seek help from a professional to manage your down moods and in turn get you back on the upswing.

Hopefully, these tips will help you keep your back aligned and healthy and will increase your mobility. If you have any remedies for putting your back on track, please share them with us.

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