Chronic back pain is nothing short of a public health epidemic. The numbers are shocking: each year, half of all working Americans experience back pain. Back pain contributes to lower activity levels, impaired mental health, poor sleep quality, and loss of economic productivity.
Although back pain can sometimes have origins outside of your control—such as injuries or underlying health conditions—the way that we conduct our most basic day-to-day activities can also have a profound impact on the extent and severity of this pain. Here are some lifestyle choices that could be contributing to your back pain. Check out ways to treat back pain properly.
Too Much Sitting
Without a doubt, Americans spend entirely too much time sitting. In fact, many go throughout the entire day with only small breaks from sitting. You may walk to the garage, drive to work (sitting), walk a short way into the office where you sit, walk back to your car and drive home (sitting), and settle into a Netflix show (again, sitting). The typical American sits for more than 13 hours every day.
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Sitting is detrimental in terms of driving back pain because the seated position is not natural at all. Chairs are a relatively recent invention, and the human body did not evolve to live in a seated position. You may want to try a standing desk or taking more breaks throughout the day to stand, stretch, and walk around. You can also find some chairs that are more ergonomic than traditional chairs. These can help reduce back pain as well if you sit in them properly.
Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) above 30. 42% of American adults are obese. More concerning than the raw numbers is the upward trajectory of obesity rates; the share of the population experiencing obesity rises each year and has for decades.
Obesity restricts blood flow (increasing pain), causes extra tension in the spine, distorts how the hips move, and increases the risk of arthritis, one of the leading causes of chronic pain among Americans.
Obviously, intervention is in order, both at the societal and the individual level. If you are obese, any back pain management strategy should include plans to lose body fat. Your weight puts a lot of pressure on your skeleton, and too much may do irreparable damage if you’re not careful.
Too Much Smartphone Use
Many of us spend hours each day glued to our phones. At this point, they’ve become almost a necessity for daily communication with our friends, associates, and loved ones. The smartphone is the town square where we connect with our peers, the office from which we conduct business, and a source of entertainment wrapped up in one.
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However, staring at the screen forces you to look down for a good portion of your day. The position of your neck and back while looking at your smartphone is extremely harmful in terms of back pain. Avoid using your smartphone when it’s not necessary. If you can, make a call rather than composing a text or email on your screen. By reducing the time you spend on your screens, you can reduce the time you spend bending your neck and increasing your neck pain.
Thankfully, smoking rates in the US have been declining steadily for years. Tobacco use has many negative health effects, including worsening back pain. Because smoking impedes proper blood flow, you’re missing out on vital nutrients to your spine, muscles, and connective tissues. Not only can this cause deterioration in your back and an increase in back pain, but it can also limit healing, which means that back pain is likely to continue. Learn about nicotine withdrawal in detail.
As you make lifestyle changes to reduce your chronic back pain, consider talking to a chiropractor or other healthcare provider about back pain management tips. They can teach you different exercises and stretches that can help increase back strength and flexibility. These are both important for living back pain free.
Back pain is difficult to escape, but you can do it by paying attention to the choices you make each day. Put down the smartphone for a while, take a walk, and—if you haven’t already—quit smoking. If you suffer from chronic back pain, consider these strategies to limit it.
Anita is a freelance writer from Denver, CO. She studied at Colorado State University and now enjoys writing about health, business, and family. A mother of two wonderful children, she loves traveling with her family whenever she isn’t writing. For more back pain management advice, she recommends talking to a healthcare provider in your area. You can find her on Twitter @anitaginsburg.