According to research, low back pain is one of the most common problems
people have – it is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old. About 60 to 80 percent of the adult U.S. population has low back pain, and it is the second most common reason people go to the doctor. Each year 13 million people go to the doctor for chronic back pain. Low back problems affect the spine’s flexibility, stability, and strength, which can cause pain, discomfort and stiffness.
Many people with lower backaches say symptoms disrupt their daily routines; however, your everyday habits may be the factors causing the pain.
Back pain isn’t just about heavy lifting. Read everyday habits that cause aches and pains – and how to feel better.
» No Smoking Please!
There may be another reason to quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes not only contributes to lung cancer and emphysema, it also leads to back pain and spine problems. Nicotine restricts blood flow to the discs that cushion your vertebrae and increases 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.
Tip: If you can’t quit cold turkey, there are many safe and effective medications that are available to help you quit smoking. And what about electronic cigarettes? Although e-cigarettes contain far fewer chemicals and carcinogens than a burning roll of tobacco, they still contain variable amounts of nicotine and traces of toxic chemicals, including known cancer-causing substances (carcinogens).
» 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 and surrounding structures in the spine. Over time, incorrect sitting posture can damage spinal structures and contribute to or worsen back pain.
Tip: Regularly stretching shoulders, hips, and hamstrings will increase your flexibility, offering instant relief and preventing back pain. Take mini-breaks throughout the 9 to 5 workday. Find opportunities to stand or take a walk to the kitchen. Walk over to your co-workers to 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 don’t overreach or twist your shoulder, arm, or wrist when clicking.
» Backpacks Can Be a Pain in the Neck (and shoulders) for Kids
In these days of iPads and laptops, online learning and e-books, it seems like a backpack would be unnecessary. But as kids headed back to school this month, they are still loaded down with traditional books, as well as notebooks, binders, folders and calculators. It all adds up and tips the scale in an unhealthy direction. Unfortunately, most kids are wearing backpacks that are too heavy for them. As a father of two I’m all too familiar with the problem. A child’s backpack should weigh no more than about 15 to 20 percent of his or her body weight. If a child starts complaining about neck, back or shoulder pain, parents should look at the backpack first.
Michael A. Gleiber, M.D.,PA Spinal Surgery and Spinal Medicine