If you suffer from chronic back pain or recently hurt your back in a fall or an accident, you could be doing things that make the pain worse or hinder the healing process without even knowing it. Avoiding exercise, poor posture, improper lifting, stress and smoking are all common mistakes people make that can worsen back pain.
Though it's not recommended for acute back pain (back pain that comes quickly and is usually caused by an injury or accident), exercise may help chronic (ongoing) back pain.
Regular exercise eases chronic back pain by:
- Improving physical fitness. Back pain is more common in people who are not physically active.
- Promoting weight loss. Being overweight puts stress on your spine and back muscles and can cause back pain.
- Strengthening muscles. Weak abdominal, back, gluteal and leg muscles can cause back pain and muscle spasms.
Low- to moderate-intensity activities like walking and water aerobics are great choices. Core- and leg-strengthening exercises will help strengthen muscles. Ask your doctor for guidance in choosing the right exercises for you.Having poor posture
Habitual poor posture can cause chronic back pain. Taking note of your posture throughout the day may improve your back pain.
When you're standing:
- Keep your head up, shoulders straight and chest forward.
- Balance your weight evenly on both feet, and keep your hips tucked in.
When you're sitting:
Not lifting things properly
- Keep your hips and knees level and feet flat on the floor.
- Use a chair with back support or place a pillow where your lower back curves to maintain the natural curve of your spine.
- Avoid sitting for longer than 15 minutes at a time whenever possible.
Improper lifting technique is a common cause of acute back pain. Follow these rules to avoid injuring your back:
- Use your leg muscles (not your back) to help you pick up items.
- Don't bend or twist your back to reach the item—bend at the knees.
- Keeping your back straight, hold the item close to your chest and use your leg muscles to straighten your legs.
- Avoid lifting heavy items.
Not managing stress
Constant stress causes tense muscles, and tense back muscles can lead to back pain. If you struggle with stress, take time each day to do something that relaxes you. Taking a warm bath, going for a walk outside, doing deep breathing exercises or getting a massage are all great ways to relax.
Here's yet another reason to stop smoking: It can cause or worsen back pain.
Nicotine and smoke hinder the body's ability to deliver nutrients to the disks that cushion your spine. This can cause your spine to age faster. Smoking may also hinder the healing process when you injure your back.If your back pain doesn't improve after trying these tips, make an appointment with one of our back (spine) experts.