|Lower back pain is the second most common disability in the United States, costing Americans $34 billion annually.
Back pain is a debilitating condition which severely impacts almost 80% of Americans who will experience it during their lives. There are an infinite number of causes for that sudden twinge of pain, or constant ache in your back, which leads to difficulty in identifying a direct cause. In a clinical study of 300 patients who reported some form of back pain, 85% had non-specific lower back pain, where the cause was ultimately unidentifiable.
Luckily, some of the more common causes of back pain are habits or lifestyle behaviors that can be changed or altered.
1. Poor Posture (Slouching)
2. High Heels
3. Lack of Exercise
Poor Posture (Slouching)
Did you suddenly sit up after reading the word slouching?
Both lower and upper back pain can be connected to poor posture - something that’s often an afterthought until it’s directly brought to our attention. Posture is the way the body is held in the position of sitting, standing or performing any type of task that can put pressure on your spine such as lifting or other similar motions.
There are two types of posture:Dynamic Posture: How the body holds itself up during any type of movement.
Static Posture: How the body holds itself up when inactive.
The difference between good and bad posture is the amount of tension that is being placed on your spine. In a person with good posture, the spinal curves are balanced and tension is properly distributed throughout the spine. Bad posture invites unnecessary tension through its poor lumbar support. The effects of bad posture might not be immediately noticeable, but the negative effects can suddenly arise from hours of slouching at a desk, leaving you in persistent pain with no obvious signs from where it incurred.
High HeelsOh, the sacrifices made for beauty.
High heels are another forgotten cause of back pain that often flies under the radar. According to The Spine Health Institute, over 70% of women will wear heels at some point in their lives, with almost 40% of women reported wearing them daily in 2003. While wearing heels, your body is off balance and will try to compensate for it by making the hip, calf and muscles tense to support the off-kilter weight. And the higher the heel, the higher the amount of weight that needs to be supported.
In a healthy spine, the S shaped curve reduces the stress on the vertebrae. Because your weight is unbalanced while wearing heels, your body begins to lean forward and is forced to respond by decreasing the forward curve in your lower back to maintain balance and proper alignment.
If you spend the majority of the day on your feet while wearing heels, you’re subjecting your body to the constant tension it must maintain in order to balance it, which can result in extreme muscle fatigue and cramping. Over time, the avid heel wearer runs the possibility of contracting “Spondylolisthesis” which is “the slippage of one vertebrae forward over another.”
It’s no wonder why the cliche of taking off your heels off at the end of the day exists, your body is enduring much more than just the pain you feel in your feet.
Lack of Exercise
An inactive lifestyle can lead to an alarming amount of health problems, and also happens to be one of the largest contributors of back pain. This kind of inactive behavior is the driving force for back pain alongside other chronic diseases, obesity, and musculoskeletal disorders. The general workforce of the US has shifted due to industrialization; desk jobs have become more commonplace and this increase in sedentary work life has been a defining factor in the number of patients reporting their back pain. Workers can potentially spend their entire work day in a chair, with limited movement, for hours at a time.
A study conducted among Swedish office workers found a direct link between lower back pain and the work behavior of the average blue-collar worker. In a similar study conducted among university employees, a correlation was also found between sedentary behavior and back pain. This study was conducted among the staff at Qatar University and found that among 479 employees, more than 60% reported feeling some form of back pain. 26% of the participants who vigorously exercised experienced back pain, compared to the 35% who reported no physical activity. These results are common among studies in this vein, Other similar studies that were conducted about this potential link showed similar results, with 58% in an Iranian study of office workers and another 50% in Kuwait. The common risk factors determined by these studies were frequent computer use and sitting for more than 2 hours a day - which is heavily integrated in the average office workers’ life.
SmokingThe National Health Interview Survey interviewed roughly 34,000 adult Americans and found “a high prevalence of back pain among current smokers, former smokers, and never smokers and the number of cigarettes smoked between current smokers with without back pain.” Ultimately, there was a significant link between back pain and smoking among the participants.
The results were as follows:
The study concluded that there is a potential biological gradient linked to the exposure of smoking cigarettes and back pain in American adults. It is hypothesized that the use of nicotine can alter the perception for the threshold of pain which may cause an increase in self-reporting of back pain. Their findings also revealed the potential that smoking increases “the level of circulating pro-inflammatory cytokines, which signal the central nervous system and may lead to an amplification of pain.”
Steps to TakeIt’s hard to determine where your back pain is coming from - there’s just too many possibilities.
Taking the proper steps to ensure back-healthy habits is a great starting point to a healthier you.
Living with back pain can be debilitating, don’t be afraid of taking control of your health!