Statistically, low back pain is one of the most common causes of disability worldwide. In many cases, the problem is unavoidable as the underlying culprit may be disease, traumatic injury, or genetic issues.
On the other hand, we see many patients who unknowingly bring on their own back pain. At McNulty Spine in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada, our double board-certified, award-winning orthopedic surgeon and spine specialist, Dr. Patrick McNulty, is renowned for expertly diagnosing and treating lower back pain. He often finds that the pain stems from bad habits, so in this blog, he’s highlighting the top five so you can avoid them and save your back.
1. Poor posture
Slouching is a sure way to give yourself back pain. If you spend your day at a desk or standing on your feet without much variation in your posture, you’re bound to end up hunched, which is horrible for your spine. The weight of your head increases as your neck bends forward, putting excess pressure on your spine. This is why your back aches at the end of the day.
Over time, the slouching habit can permanently change your spinal anatomy, causing chronic back pain. Correcting your posture calls for a more mindful approach. Schedule rest breaks and use the time to stretch and change positions. Set alerts to notify you it’s time to check your posture. Or check out the many apps available that remind you to sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed.
2. Sedentary lifestyle
Not moving is not only a bad habit; it’s become an epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that up to nearly 48% of Americans are inactive, making it a major contributor to lower back pain. If you don’t move your body daily, you run the risk of:
- Muscular atrophy
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
- Depression and anxiety
Weak muscles lead to low back pain, especially when your core muscles aren’t up to par. Weak abs make your back do most of the heavy lifting and often cause poor posture. A strong core protects your back.
You don’t have to run a marathon, but scheduling half an hour of walking can do wonders for your back. You can also develop healthy habits like taking the stairs or parking farther away from the building to increase the number of daily steps.
3. Being overweight or obese
Although obesity isn’t technically a habit, bad habits — like lack of exercise and a bad diet — likely contribute to your unhealthy weight. Carrying extra weight puts stress on your joints, including those in your spine.
Also, a large abdomen shifts your body’s center of gravity forward and misaligns your spine. Being overweight leads to numerous health conditions and puts you at risk for spinal disc compression, another cause of back pain.
4. Improper lifting form
Exercise is great for your overall health and your back, but if you do it wrong, it can be the source of lower back pain.
Whether lifting a heavy box or weights at the gym, using the proper lifting technique can save your back from injury and pain. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re lifting weights or heavy objects:
- Keep your back straight
- Don’t twist
- Use a wide stance
- Keep the object close to your body
- Tighten your core muscles as you lift
- Use your legs to lift, not your back
Also, beware of fatigue. Whether you’re helping a friend on moving day or working out at the gym, you can expect your proper form to falter as your muscles get tired — that’s when injuries happen.
You know smoking is bad for your health, but many studies also show it’s bad for your back. Researchers find that smoking alters the nutrients in your body. Specifically, it lowers your vitamin D production, which affects your bone density and may cause fractures and/or back pain; plus, it makes you metabolize vitamin C more quickly, which lowers the level in your blood and may contribute to back pain.
Smoking also damages your arteries, degrades your spinal discs, and increases your risk for osteoporosis — all causes of lower back pain.
Breaking these habits may alleviate your lower back, but if not, call us at McNulty Spine to schedule a consultation with Dr. McNulty or request an appointment online. He uses the most advanced technology and more than three decades of experience to diagnose and treat your lower back pain at its source.