Did you know that low back, neck and shoulder pain are serious enough to send about 60 to 80% of adults in the United States to the doctor every year? To put it in perspective, about 13 million people are suffering from chronic back pain in America. Low back problems affect the spine’s flexibility, stability and strength, which can cause pain, hassle and stiffness. Change the following everyday habits that cause aches and pains, and you will feel better with ease!
No More Smoking Please!
Yes, you have heard it before, but hear it again! Smoking cigarettes not only contributes to lung cancer and emphysema, it also leads to back pain and spine problems. Nicotine can restrict the blood flow to the discs that cushion your vertebrae and increase the rate of degenerative change. Cigarette smoking also reduces calcium absorption and prevents new bone growth, leaving smokers with double the risk of an osteoporotic fracture compared with non-smokers. Don’t worry! If you have difficulty quitting cold turkey, there are several safe and effective medications that are available to help you.
Don’t Be a Desk Slave!
Sitting in an office chair for prolonged periods of time can definitely cause low back pain or worsen an existing back problem. The main reason behind this is that sitting, in an office chair or in general, is a static posture that increases stress in the back, shoulders, arms and legs, and in particular, can add large amounts of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs. When sitting in an office chair for a long period, the natural tendency for most people is to slouch over or slouch down in the chair, and this posture can overstretch the spinal ligaments and strain the discs or surrounding structures in the spine. Over time, incorrect sitting posture can damage spinal structures and contribute to or worsen back, shoulder and neck discomfort.
Regular stretching – shoulders, hips and hamstrings will increase your flexibility, offering instant relief and preventing back pain. Find small opportunities to stand, take a brief walk or jog in place throughout the day. Walk over to one of your co-worker’s desk and chat with them instead of relying on email. Proper office ergonomics is also important. A simple adjustment to your chair height could be the fix you need to end your back pain; and never hunch over a computer. Focus on aligning your head and neck right above your shoulders and avoid straining forward. Ideally, your mouse should be placed right next to your keyboard so you do not overreach or twist your shoulder, arm or wrist while you are clicking!
Could it be your driving?
Driving can be an aggravator of shoulder, neck and lower back pain – it can even be the initial cause of your pain. Studies have shown that the average American spends around 100 hours per year just commuting to and from work! Studies further reveal that the average person can spend over 100 minutes driving each day. The primary cause of back pain while driving? Poor posture! Normally, you do not even think about good posture while driving. The majority of people put their spine in a position that can cause problems, especially since most people are holding this position for over an hour and a half each day! This is due to the pressure placed on the lumbar curve. The lumbar curve consists of five vertebrae in the lower portion of the back. These vertebrae naturally curve towards the stomach. However, when driving for long periods of time, this curve tends to straighten, which puts excessive pressure on the discs. On top of this pressure, the discs and vertebrae are being forced to endure the millions of vibrations from the car’s suspension being used to the maximum on the roads of today. This can cause back pain, even after getting out of the car!
Posture, posture, posture! Several drivers adopt a bad posture while driving, leaning into the wheel and stretching their legs to reach the pedals. Try to sit with your bottom totally back in the seat and use the car’s built in lumbar support to provide cushion to your lumbar spine. If you do not have a lumbar support, roll up a towel and place it in the curve of your low back. It also helps to get as close to the steering wheel as you can without becoming uncomfortable. Being close prevents you from slouching, and also keeps you from straining to reach the car pedals. Millions of men drive with their wallet in their back pocket and sit on them at their desk at work. Unfortunately, this is one of the worst things to do. Back pain, sciatica, neck and shoulder pain are frequently caused by sitting on a thick and heavy wallet that throws your pelvic balance off triggering chronic pain in your back, hips and shoulders. Remover your wallet prior to making that long commute to begin the pain relief!
Lose the baggage!
Backpacks, large purses, heavy computer bags can cause both shoulder, neck and back pain. Inside of the typical carrying bag, you may find a phone, iPad, wallet or makeup bag, a bottle of water, book or magazine – maybe an extra pair of shoes. They can seem like little things, but they add weight – often up to 10 pounds and carrying all that weight can cause shoulder and neck pain. Aim for symmetry. Select a bag that you can wear diagonally across your body rather than a single-strap bag that rests on one shoulder. When carrying any other type of bag, be conscious of changing the sides you use to carry it – redistributing the weight and alleviating pain!