It seems like everyone with a back has had back pain at some point or another; no one is safe. The good news is that many people could reduce their own back pain with a few slight modifications, and no medicine. The following list itemizes ways in which you may be causing yourself undue discomfort.
You sit with your legs crossed
You back may hurt because you cross your legs, which takes the lumbar vertebrae out of their natural, healthiest alignment by creating a twist in the spine.
You lift with your back
Even if you aren’t lifting anything but are bending over, if you curl your back to bring your head lower instead of hinging at the hip, you’re going to hurt yourself. Forward bends often harm the lower back.
Your chair has no lumbar support
Especially in these times when we work long hours and hardly get out of our chairs or off the couch, lumbar support is incredibly important. If your chair does not support your lower back, buy one that does– and test it first. The cost of a new chair may seem like an unnecessary expense, but compared to the price of treatment for chronic back pain, it is nothing. If you spend significant time in the car, invest in a postural wedge, information for which is readily accessible via an Internet search. If you’re on the couch, slumped over and making a C with your back for extended periods of time, consider sitting somewhere else to watch TV; the unconscious habit of slouching into a comfortable couch will most likely overwhelm your will to do otherwise, which is not your fault.
You don’t sit straight
The body is meant to be more or less symmetrical. This means that though the body can move through various off-center positions, it is most ergonomically sustainable to keep lines straight and the two halves of the body symmetrical. Otherwise, it puts strain on the spine.
Unbeknownst to many, nightshades are a fairly common dietary intolerance, especially in Caucasian people, and tend to cause inflammation in affected people. Consuming potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, or other nightshades can lead to inflammation that leads to pain not only in the hands and feet but also sometimes in the back. If this is the case, pain is usually at its strongest when waking up in the morning and after prolonged periods of physical rest. If you suspect this might be what is causing your back pain, cut nightshades out of your diet for three weeks and take note of your symptoms.
Think of that unpleasant feeling that comes with sitting in a vehicle for long distances, or even sitting for hours in an office chair. Now, remember that as you sleep, you are maintaining one position for (hopefully) at least seven or eight hours at a time. The heart of this is why so many people have chronic back pain, and why specialized mattresses are becoming so popular.
Specialized mattresses aside, there are several factors to consider if you think your back pain is influenced by your sleep. One is your pillow. Do you sleep on your back, side, or front? Your pillow should be designed for people who adopt your particular position at bedtime. If you sleep on your back, a thin pillow should suffice, because it will not push your head and neck out of alignment with the rest of your body. This alignment is important for side and belly sleepers, as well.
Imagine walking around for an entire day with your neck bent thirty degrees to the right. Does this sound comfortable? Of course not. But if you sleep on your side and use a pillow that is too thin, this is effectively what you are doing to yourself. The key is to find a pillow that will provide a sufficient shelf for your head to rest upon, keeping your neck more or less in line with the rest of your spine. Similarly, any twist in the neck should be avoided. For these reasons, sleeping on the belly should be avoided when possible.
You don’t use your muscles
Depending on your lifestyle, your discomfort could be dependent on the disuse of a number of muscular groups. One of these pairs so instrumental to a healthy back is the abdominals and lower back. These are the muscles responsible for keeping you vertical, and when you sit, especially if you slump, you are letting them go. Especially for those who spend all day sitting in an office, going to the gym and doing some back extension exercises could be the answer to greater well-being. As always, consult a trainer to ensure that you are not pushing yourself too hard and causing further damage to this very important part of your body.
You do too many sit-ups
It may sound counterintuitive, as the goal of your sit-ups may be health, but too many sit-ups can mess up your lower back. Notice, the next time you get on the floor to do sit-ups, where you are resting your weight. When you lift up into a sit-up or crunch, how ideal is the alignment of your spine? And when you do your abdominal exercises, are you diligently balancing them out with back exercises?
Similarly, if you work out the front of your chest and arms over a period of time while neglecting your rowing and rear deltoid exercises, you will begin to develop a caveman-like hunch. And when you hunch over, your neck, at its new angle, has to struggle to hold up your head. It creates a chain reaction of discomfort and even pain that is avoidable with the right balance exercises.
Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais
If you find yourself in muscular pain or discomfort on a daily basis, consider Alexander Technique or Feldenkrais classes. Both techniques are focused on imparting the knowledge of how to use the body while minimizing the pain brought on by unintentionally harmful posture.