#1 You Sit Too Much
Did you know that sitting puts 40 percent more pressure on your spine than standing?
Let’s be honest: Maintaining proper posture is probably the last thing you’re thinking about when under a major work deadline. And on a jam-packed day, regular stretching breaks may not seem like a wise way to spend your time. But skipping these habits may cause your back to suffer. That’s because back muscles will weaken if you don’t use them; inactive joints lose lubrication and age more quickly.
Fix It: Sitting at a 135-degree angle can reduce compression of the discs in the spine, so lean back slightly every now and then. Do it when you take a phone call or a coworker stops by to chat. Make sure your office chair supports the curve of your spine, he says: Your lower back should be supported, and your head should be straight—not lurching forward—when you look at your computer screen. Get up and walk around for a couple of minutes every half hour—take trips to get water, use the bathroom, or grab papers off the printer.
#2 You Don’t Exercise
Get moving to alleviate aches and pains and fix back pain faster.
New research shows that 40% of people become less active after back pain strikes — a strategy that’s likely to delay healing or even make their condition worse.
Fix it: In fact, most sufferers would benefit from more exercise—particularly frequent walks, which ease stiffness. For instant relief, stretch your hamstrings and hips. Moves like these will take some strain off your back.
#3 If You Do Exercise, You’re Addicted to Crunches
Sit-ups and crunches may actually cause more back pain than they prevent.
We hear all the time how a strong core protects your back, which is true. But crunches don’t work the ab muscles that stabilize your back. In fact, they can contribute to pain by causing core imbalance, “a condition of excessive compression, which results in the spine curving forward in a C-like shape.”
Fix it: You don’t have to ditch crunches entirely, but you should do them slowly and use proper form. Include them as part of a broader core workout that also strengthens your transverse abdominus (ie, Core Stability Exercises, which I’ve talked about in other blog posts). Your Core Muscle groups are particularly important for a strong, steady core that supports your back, and the best way to strengthen it is with (non-crunch!) exercises like these.
#4 You Have a Thing for High Heels or Flip-Flops
High heels force you to arch your back, making your spinal muscles work harder. Backless shoes like sandals cause your feet to move from side to side which distributes your body weight unevenly and can cause pain.
Fix it: You don’t have to forgo trendy footwear—just don’t walk long distances in them. Commute in comfy flats or supportive sneakers, and consider adding cushioning inserts to uncomfy shoes. When Lehigh University researchers gave back-pain sufferers lightweight, flexible shoes with simple cushions, 80% reported significant relief within a year.
#5 You Ignore the Pain
A better approach: Try to think about what particular activities cause you have back pain or for it to tighten up.
Fix it: See a person who specializes in back pain prevention and treatment (your’s truly!) and understand the principle of supportive maintenance. In other words, just like anything else in life (your car, your health overall, your relationships with friends or your partner) – it takes regular investing of your time and money to continue to keep it working well.
If you or somebody you know needs help with back pain, give me a call at (402) 323-7838.
– Dr. Leif