If you have back pain, you are not alone! At this very moment 31 million Americans are also suffering (1). Back pain is common and often uncomfortable enough to keep people home from work. In fact, low back pain is the second most common cause of disability among US adults and a frequent reason for sick days (2). 3, 4). But in many instances, the cause is far less serious. Check out these 5 other possible sources of back pain you should be mindful of and how to avoid them.
SmokingSmoking can affect back pain in 4 major ways. 1. The nicotine in cigarettes restricts blood flow to the discs in the back, therefore leading to degeneration. Smokers without healthy disks to cushion the spine are consequently more likely to experience unpleasant lower back pain (5). 2. Tobacco affects the nervous system and can ultimately alter the way the human brain responds to pain. As a result, smokers may be less resilient to pain and perceive pain more acutely than non-smokers (6). 3. Smoking reduces the body's ability to absorb calcium. Without adequate calcium, bone growth and repair is slowed. Weak bones can cause back pain (7). 4. Coughing from heaving smoking can cause back strain and pain. Solution: Talk to your doctor about the resources available to you. There are plenty of programs and products that can make quitting easier and achievable!
ShoesHeels cause you to lean forward. This unnatural position places pressure on your feet and prevents full calf extension. As a result, the lower back compensates (8). Even "sensible" shoes can change the way you walk and lead to back pain. Solution: Replace old inserts and shoes with worn out soles! If you need to wear heels for work, commute in a pair of supportive walking shoes then change when you arrive at the office.
LifestyleExtra pounds place major strain on your back. So, exercise regularly and get rid of refined sugar in your diet to lose weight and keep it off. Just 20 minutes of exercise per day can reduce your risk of back pain by 32%! (9) Refined sugars found in sweets, sodas, and most processed foods, create inflammation that can trigger back pain. (10).
People who are extremely overweight are 4X more likely to have lower back pain.Solution: Start with a 20 minute walk each day and eat healthy, whole foods whenever possible. Check out our One Drop Guide to Superfoods for examples!
SittingAmericans sit an average of 13 hours per day (11). This includes commuting to work, sitting at a desk, and participating in sedentary activities such as watching TV. Prolonged sitting puts significant pressure on the discs in your back, resulting in pain (12). Poor posture is also to blame. Leaning your head forward or slumping your shoulders while on the computer or looking at your cellphone can cause muscle spasms (13). Solution: Don't sit for long periods of time. Take breaks every 30-60 minutes to stretch and walk around.
StressEmotions often manifest as physical symptoms. When you are stressed, your muscles tighten. If these muscles are contracted often or for too long, the tension can lead to back aches and spasms (14). Stress also raises cortisol levels (15).
Cortisol is a stress hormone that triggers inflammation and can lead to pain.Chronic stress may also affect the way you perceive pain. Stressed people often report greater difficulty managing their back pain compared to relaxed individuals (16). This may explain why depression has been significantly associated with back pain (17). Solution: Manage your stress with relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, and mediation. Check out our One Drop Guide to Meditation to learn how!