7 Bad Habits That Cause Back Pain
by Aaron Lobo on Feb 28, 2022
By Kristen Stewart Medically Reviewed by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Back pain is often caused by everyday bad habits that stress and strain your muscles and joints. Here's how to fend off the aches before they begin.
Back pain will affect about 80 percent of us at some point in our lives, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). It often results from repeated behaviors that stress your body.
If you're battling back pain now — or if you want to take steps to prevent an achy back — make an effort to avoid these seven bad habits:
Not exercising. "The failure to perform any exercise, particularly abdominal strengthening exercises, may lead to poor posture and increased low back pain," says Nancy E. Epstein, MD, chief of neurosurgical spine and education at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, New York. Good exercises for back pain prevention include Pilates or other core strengthening activities that can increase stability in the back muscles. A 2015 Cochrane review found some scientific evidence that Pilates can help with low back pain, though it's not clear if Pilates is better than the other forms of recommended exercises. Cardiovascular exercises such as swimming, walking, and bicycling are also recommended, along with movements that improve flexibility.
Having poor posture. "Poor posture can add strain to muscles and put stress on the spine," says Tae M. Shin, MD, a board-certified orthopedic surgeon at the Los Angeles Orthopaedic Center. Over time, he adds, the stress of poor posture can actually change the anatomical characteristics of the spine. To avoid back injuries, try to stand with your knees slightly bent, and place one foot forward to take pressure off the lower back and reduce back strain. When sitting, Dr. Shin advises sitting with your hips slightly higher than your knees.
Lifting incorrectly. Often back injuries occur when we try to lift heavy objects and do so incorrectly. Bend your knees and use the power of your legs, keeping the weight close to the body; keep your head down and back straight, and be sure to avoid twisting.
Being overweight. Keep your weight under control for back pain prevention. You're more likely to suffer from low back pain if you are overweight or obese, or quickly gain a significant amount of weight, according to NINDS. "Being overweight, especially in the mid-section, shifts your entire center of gravity forward and puts additional strain on your back muscles," Shin says. Try to stay within 10 pounds of your ideal weight to avoid experiencing unnecessary back pain, suggests the North American Spine Society. Exercise and a healthy diet can help move you toward this goal.
Smoking. Nicotine restricts blood flow to the disks that cushion your vertebrae and increases the rate of degeneration, Shin says. This loss of cushioning can cause back pain. Cigarette smoking also reduces calcium absorption and prevents new bone growth, leaving smokers with an increased risk for osteoporosis (brittle, fragile bones) and slower healing after bone fractures, which can cause back pain, according to NINDS. Additionally, coughing from heavy smoking can cause back pain.
Not getting enough calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients are essential for bone strength. If you don't get enough calcium and vitamin D in your daily diet (your body also synthesizes vitamin D in response to sun exposure), discuss the possibility of supplements with your doctor.
Being sedentary. Limiting activity as a means of pain management when you're experiencing back pain can be counterproductive. Activity increases blood flow to the affected area, decreasing inflammation and reducing muscle tension, Shin says. Research shows that people who continue with their normal daily activities after experiencing low back pain may have better back flexibility than those who rest in bed for a week, according to NINDS. Prolonged bed rest can may also increase pain and potentially lead to complications, including depression, blood clots in the legs, and decreased muscle tone.
When you're in the throes of back pain or simply want to ward it off, avoiding these habits will help protect and strengthen your back and your entire body.
For best back pain relief invest in a good lumbar support pillow that can support your neck, back and shoulders. Apilloz is a light weight, portable and adjustable pain relief pillow that can be used both as a lumbar as well as cervical pillow. Created by a doctor and physical therapist, Apilloz was an invention born out of necessity. The unique U shaped design helps decompress the spinal cord, which increases blood flow, oxygenates the surrounding muscles, decreases pain and increases mobility of the neck and shoulders.