Chronic back pain can be caused by an acute injury or illness, but other times it’s the result of an aggregation of micro-injuries — little movements that you make again and again that, over time, can add up to major pain. You might not even realize that you’re doing anything that’s “bad for you.” It can also be frustrating to have no idea what’s causing your pain. Take a look at this list of sneaky causes of chronic pain, and learn what simple fixes you can make that might help relieve your pain.
The Culprit: Your Purse
The Fix: If you’re channeling Mary Poppins — you can reach in your bag and literally whatever someone needs, you’ve got it — you may also be doing a number on your back and neck. Carrying too much weight (5 pounds or more) can cause problems, as can carrying it asymmetrically (e.g., always on one shoulder). Pare down to the essentials so that you aren’t carrying too much. Switch shoulders regularly, or carry your bag in front of your body. If you really need to bring that much with you, use a backpack (with both straps!) or a wheelie bag.
The Culprit: Your Wallet
The Fix: Guys think they’re safe from pain just because they don’t carry purses? Not so much, especially if your wallet tends to be overstuffed. Whether it’s full of cash or receipts, if you keep your wallet in your back pocket, you’re also sitting on it. This not only makes your body a little asymmetrical, it also places pressure on your muscles. Your best bet is to carry your wallet in your back pocket when you’re on the go, but move it to a safe spot like your desk drawer or glove compartment when you’re sitting.
The Culprit: Your Car Seat
The Fix: You might have made sure that your desk chair has perfect ergonomics, but the driver’s seat in your car — where you may also spend a good chunk of time — can contribute to aches and pains. Adjust the seat so that you’re at a proper height: our elbows should be bent slightly when your hands are on the wheel. Don’t slump toward the steering wheel or hunch your shoulders. Instead, stay upright and sit tall. A lower-back pillow (or even a rolled towel) can help support your lower back’s natural curve.
The Culprit: Your Sleep
The Fix: A recent study from the University of Haifa found a strong correlation between having insomnia and developing back pain (and interestingly, did not find a link that went the other way). The researchers found that people who suffered from insomnia were nearly 150% more likely to develop back pain than those who had regular sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, work on identifying and fixing the underlying cause.
The Culprit: Your Cell Phone
The Fix: Hunching over — or even just looking down — at your cell phone or tablet for an extended period of time can do a number on your cervical spine. In fact, researchers have dubbed the resulting pain “text neck.” The further forward you tilt your head, the more weight you’re asking your cervical spine to bear. Even though the average head weighs about 12 pounds, when your dome is tipped forward at a 60-degree angle, you’re placing 60 pounds of pressure on your spine. To help prevent this pain, take phone breaks and stretch your neck and shoulders. When you are using your phone, tuck your chin, or just lower your eyes, rather than tilting your whole head forward.
If you’re experiencing back pain that won’t go away, don’t ignore it! You shouldn’t have to live with pain — and you should make sure that it’s not a symptom of a more serious problem. Call the Spine Institute Northwest at 206-496-0630 to learn more about how we can help you get back your life.