September is National Pain Awareness Month and BackJoy is celebrating by helping you get to the source of that nagging ache 8/10 of us will experience at one point or another—back pain.
While many back pain sufferers have serious back-health issues (like scoliosis or herniated discs), there are those of us that may experience back pain because we sit for 8+ hours a day hunched over a computer, we sleep on our stomachs, or we lift heavy objects with our backs instead of our knees. The reasons for back pain are countless.
Here are a few surprising causes of back pain (and what you can do to fix them):
1. The Wrong Shoes
We all know that stilettos are hard on your back and flip flops don’t provide correct support. But even “good” shoes that have worn out soles could change your posture and the way you walk, causing back pain.
The fix: Replace your old shoes with new shoes that are a good fit for your foot. Try to find a shoe that allows your foot to be placed in a neutral position (no shoes with heels over 2 inches high) to protect your feet, knees and back.
The heavier you are, the harder your body works to keep itself balanced. Even a few extra pounds can make your hips tilt forward and misalign your spine, causing strain on your lower back.
The fix: Tighten your abs to lessen pressure on the lumbar. Hold for 10 seconds and then release. Repeat several times daily.
Looking down at your cell phone, tablet or computer for long periods of time will put strain on the muscles in your neck, leading to improper posture and back pain.
The fix: Take frequent technology breaks (at least one per hour) and make sure to set up your office ergonomically so you’re putting the least amount of strain on your back. Here’s a few of our favorite ergonomic office tips.
Here’s another reason to add to the list of why you might want to quit smoking: studies show that smokers are twice as likely to develop back pain as those who have never smoked or quit. Smoking lessens the flow of oxygen to cells all over your body, including those that control the motion in your back.
The fix: Quit!
5. Old Mattress
A mattress that dips in certain areas will bend your spine abnormally. If you find yourself sinking into your mattress when you lie down, your mattress is likely lacking proper support. The result: poor sleeping posture, muscle strain and misalignment of the spine, i.e. back pain.
The fix: Find a mattress with good support. Experts recommend a soft-top mattress with firm coils underneath. Sleeping on a good pillow (like this one) will also help reduce neck pain and back pain.
6. Unsupportive Bra
Ill-fitting bras can affect the curve of the spine and lead to upper back problems. Research shows that most women wear the wrong size bra, leading to extensive hunching and straining as compensation for discomfort.
The fix: Get fitted by a bra professional to make sure that you’re wearing the correct size of bra. Find a bra that offers the right support, and keep posture in mind as you try different bras on.
Under stress (even good stress!), back muscles tend to tense up and may even spasm. Stress also causes an increased production of cortisol leading to inflammation and achiness. To top it off, those who are regularly stressed will likely have a more difficult time managing their pain, increasing back pain symptoms.
The fix: Work out! Go on a walk or spend some time on the elliptical—your back will be relieved and your stress will be eased. If working out doesn’t work, you may want to talk to your doctor to find a different solution.