by Brent Hearn •
If you’ve ever been to a chiropractor—or indeed, if you’re a human above a certain age—there’s a decent chance you’ve dealt with back pain at some point. Ranging from a mild nuisance to a major problem (and painful, to boot), back pain can be a real…well, pain in the back.
Most of the causes of back pain we’re looking at today are, for many of us, at least partially preventable. (There are issues outside the scope of this article—serious injury, disease, etc.—that may require more serious medical intervention.)
For our purposes, we’re talking about habits you may be engaged in that aren’t ideal for a healthy back. The great thing about most habits is that you can change them. (And if a habit is causing you pain, we’re betting you’re pretty motivated to do so.)
It May Be a Core Issue
A weak core can lead to back pain. You don’t have to have a ripped midsection to reap the results of a strong core. Some modest changes and basic exercises (planks, pushups, etc.) can go a long way. (We’ve talked about this before here.) Consult your physician—and perhaps a trainer—to choose the core routine that works best for you, and be sure to perform the movements correctly. Sloppily performed core exercises can contribute to back pain rather than alleviate it.
Poor sleep habits can do more than cause you to nod off during meetings. Sleep can help muscles to relax and keep your discs in good shape, so if you’re skimping on quality snoozing, your back may be paying the price.
To increase the chances of getting a good night’s sleep, keep the room as dark as possible, ban screens from the bedroom, and limit your caffeine intake, particularly later in the day.
We’ve said it before (here…and here…and also here), and we’ll likely say it again: Lift with your legs and not your back. Don’t make us say it again. (We’ll almost certainly say it again.) Also, remember to lift heavy things—boxes, grandchildren…whatever—close to your body so as not to put unnecessary stress on your back.
Get That Vitamin D
Some studies have linked a deficiency in vitamin D to back pain and disc degeneration, so make sure you’re getting enough of this important nutrient. And again, talk with your physician to see if your vitamin D levels are where they need to be.
Carrying Extra Weight
We just got through the holidays, so even more of us can relate to this than usual. If you’re carrying too much weight for your frame, it may be causing extra strain on your back. Weight can be a complex issue, of course; it’s important to note that everyone’s body is different, and for some, there’s more to it than just increasing exercise and decreasing calorie intake. Consult your physician to discuss a healthy weight range for you and recommended steps to get there.
AARP: 10 Surprising Causes of Back Pain
Mayo Clinic: Back Pain
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: Back Pain
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source: Vitamin D
The Permanente Journal: Treating Vitamin D Deficiency and Insufficiency in Chronic Neck and Back Pain and Muscle Spasm: A Case Series