Seventy percent of Americans have back pain at some point in their adult life. It’s the single most common reason people seek out the evaluation and advice of a physician. Usually the examination ends up with basic imaging studies which lead to numerous consultations with specialists which causes endless prescriptions in a vicious cycle of pain control.
X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans plus orthopedists, pain management doctors, physical therapists, and chiropractors equals Percocet, muscle relaxants, epidurals and worse yet – surgery!! What most docs won’t talk about though, are the easily-correctable habits that contribute to and perpetuate the pain.
Listed are five lifestyle factors that cause back pain. Take a look at these potential culprits and try altering your habits with these helpful hints.
Culprit #1. Our kids… Of course, we love our children and would do anything to make them happy. Young children especially require a great deal of their parents physically. Be mindful of your posture when lifting your kids, changing a car seat, moving furniture or heavy toys. Always work with your legs not your back muscles. Try to avoid carrying young children on your hip, but if it’s absolutely necessary, alternate hips frequently.
Culprit #2. Our car…We spend hours a day driving to and from work, activities, the gym, running errands. Oftentimes we will forget to recenter our hips and pelvis once we slide into our seats. As a result we settle into an asymmetric position which may put undue strain on our lumbar spine. Always readjust your bottom on the seat prior to starting your car. You can also use a simple towel roll in your lumbar space for support when riding long distances.
Culprit #3. Our shoes…Ladies love to look stylish in high heels, wide wedges and flimsy flip-flops. But in turn sacrifice comfort, cushion and ankle support. Altering the angle of your heel will create vectors of strain on your hips, pelvis and sacrum and can ultimately worsen the curve at your low back. When possible, wear shoes that provide the appropriate arch for your foot and support around the ankle. And when they get worn down, invest in a new pair. Sport those stilettos on special occasions, but on a daily basis, go comfy and safe. Many quality name brands now offer stylish and supportive lines for work and play!
Culprit #4. Our mattress…More miles go on your mattress than on your car. Consult a bedding specialist to find out what type of sleep support you need. In general, the most anatomically correct position for sleep is sidelying with a pillow under your neck and in-between your knees. If you can’t get a new mattress, at least invest in a quality pillow and turn your mattress regularly to prevent divots.
Culprit #5. Our weight…All-too-many Americans carry excess weight around the mid-section. The obesity epidemic not only contributes to heart disease, diabetes and cancer risk, but also significantly worsens and prolongs back pain. Even if you are at a healthy weight, start a balanced exercise regimen under the guidance of your family doctor. Cardiovascular training, stretching (like yoga and pilates) as well as core-strengthening exercises with not only help you lose those extra pounds around the middle, they will also improve flexibility, lessen pain, and release natural pain-killers called endorphins!
Before jumping to prescription pain medications, epidurals, or surgeries, consider visiting an Osteopathic Physician who practices Osteopathic Manipulation. You may be able to bring your pain under control with the help of some hands-on therapy. Complementary treatments such as heat, massage, and physical therapy may also be useful in your treatment plan.
Of course, if you’ve tried these minimally invasive approaches and you’re still having pain, please consult your doctor. The problem may be more than just muscle strain and may require additional interventions. Get to the doctor sooner than later if you’re experiencing swelling, numbness or tingling in your inner thighs or genitals, incontinence, persistent prolonged pain, or pain that radiates down your extremities.