As an adult its common to suffer regular bouts of pain, spasms and numbness in our backs. It’s equally easy to brush this off as “a sign of old age”, but it can be far more serious than that. There are several aspects of your life and your habits that can lead to persistent and serious back pain that if not treated could become far more serious later in life.
In this new series of 4 blog posts, we will look into the causes of back pain, how Zing True Health Clinic can help through the use of both Acupuncture and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, and some alternate methods of alleviating back pain at home.
Let’s start with the 10 main causes of back pain:
This has become even more of a prevalent issue since Working from Home became the norm in 2020. While, yes, most people do sit at a desk even in their offices, working from home has actually reduced the amount of movement we would have taken for granted a few years ago – getting up and walking to the car, walking to work, cycling, walking up stairs in the office building, walking to the shop for lunch. All basic movements which have been hugely reduced by work from home lifestyles.
Sitting for extended periods of time without taking significant breaks to stand, walk or stretch, puts intense pressure on the discs in the lower back. The act of sitting squeezes the lower-back discs together, creating tension in the lower back leading to pain in that area.
Related to sitting is poor posture. In this digital and work from home age, poor posture is more common than ever. People are sitting on un-ergonomic chairs, straining down to look at small computer screens all day long with hunched shoulders and bent backs.
And even when not in work, people crane their necks down to look at smartphones and tablets all day long even when out walking.
All of this leads to a change of the curvature and shape of the spine, leading to neck and back pain.
Do you ever get home from a day of work, even a day sitting at a desk, and feel your feet and lower-legs are sore or fatigued? It’s entirely possible your shoes are not the correct size or shape for your feet and/or are not providing adequate support to your arches and ankles.
Heels more than 1-inch tall can create pressure in your back by changing the normal curvature of the spine, which in turn causes the back to arch more than natural and can lead to severe pain.
Back pain can also be caused by flat shoes or even running shoes which are not properly matched to your foot type. It’s common for one foot to be a different shape & style to the other, and yet people wear the same style shoe on both, which can lead to hip and lower back misalignment if our feet are not correctly positioned and individually supported.
Whether you’re lifting boxes in work, lifting weights in the gym, lifting a bag of golf clubs on the course, or lifting and carrying your child, poor lifting form is a huge contributor to back pain in every day life.
Lifting a heavy object without correctly bending your knees and bracing your back can cause slipped discs, pulled muscles, spasms and sprains. This is especially likely if you do not lift heavy objects on a regular basis as you are less likely to be mindful of your form and posture when lifting said object.
Yes, believe it or not, smoking has been proven to be a cause of back and spine pain in many people. Smoking leads to spine and tissue degeneration as nicotine blocks oxygen and nutrient transport to spinal discs.
Excessive smoking can lead to degenerative disc diseases developing, causing chronic back pain.
This one is a bit of a double-edged sword because back pain can be cause both by exercise and a lack of it.
As mentioned in point 4, incorrectly lifting heavy objects such as weights can cause back injuries; but other forms of exercise such as running, cycling, and swimming can all equally cause back injuries if proper form and technique are not adhered to.
If you are a runner who suffers ongoing pain & injuries, do check out our partner tonylawless.com and join his Run Smart online running course to help improve your running technique and stay injury free, or his Unstoppable online pilates training classes to improve over strength.
Even more damaging to your back is a lack of exercise. This fits in with sitting for too long and having bad posture. Without regular exercise, muscles lose strength and stability, further increasing issues such as bad posture, as the muscles lose the ability to hold up your body effectively. And we don’t mean having to go to the gym and deadlift 100kg every day, but simple exercises like walking and swimming are vital to maintain even basic muscle mass and avoid back pain and other injuries.
Nutrition, much like smoking, may not seem like a cause of back pain but can in fact be a very serious factor.
The spine & tissue in the back need good and regular nutrients to remain strong & healthy. The muscles need a decent amount of protein also to maintain strength and heal if damaged.
Particularly bad nutritional habits which can cause back pain include an excessive amount of overly salted & processed snacks, consuming excessive alcohol, and not drinking enough water, which are both contributing factors in kidney failure.
Poor nutrition can lead to gaining too much weight, which is the primary cause of back pain in a large number of people.
Carrying extra weight above doctor recommended levels can put excessive strain on all muscles but particularly on the spine which has to work extra hard to hold up the extra weight. It can also put added pressure on the knees & ankles, leading to an unnatural gait, which loops back to the misalignment of hip pain mentioned previously.
How often do you wake up after a night’s sleep to an intense pain in your back? If you said often, you’re not alone. Sleep can be one of the biggest contributing factors to back pain.
Poor sleeping posture and unsupportive mattresses lead to intense back pain.
The quality of your mattress is often the number one cause of back pain from sleep. If your mattress is too soft or sagging in certain areas, it can be very difficult to maintain a good posture, with proper support for your neck while you sleep, leading to back pain in the morning. Equally if you sleep on something too hard like the floor or a very very stiff mattress, your body’s natural curvature is not supported while you sleep.
Since we spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping, the position we sleep in is also very important. Sleeping on your back with your neck supported is the ideal position, but if you prefer to sleep on your side, it is important your spine alignment is supported, usually by placing a pillow between your legs as you sleep.
Persistent stress can cause the muscles in the back to clench and stay clenched for extended periods of time. Muscles are naturally supposed to contract and relax, but if they are not given the chance to regularly relax, they will get fatigued and sore from over-use of being contracted for too long.
Stress for a lot of people manifests in the shoulders and neck and pain in these areas can quickly affect the upper and lower back muscles which are overcompensating for the contraction of the other muscles.
So there we go, a look at 10 of the most common causes of back pain. Are you affected by any of these problems? If so, be sure to check out our next blog in the series for a deeper look into how Acupuncture therapy can be used to alleviate back pain.
If you can’t wait that long, though, do feel free to contact Zing True Health Clinic to book a free consultation and let us help you with your back pain now.