If You Have Back Pain, Here’s What You May be Doing to Make It Worse

Back pain has a profound impact on your quality of life. When it’s at its worst, it can be debilitating. When you’re in the midst of an attack of back pain, your primary focus naturally goes to what you can do to make it stop, but even if you are able to address your discomfort, you also need to know what caused the pain. Otherwise, it will eventually return.

If your back pain was caused by an injury, then you know exactly how it arose, as well as that once the injury is addressed, the problem should go away. But if your pain’s source is a mystery, the first thing you need to do is look at your own habits to see whether you are contributing to your own problem. If any of the activities on this list are a part of your life, then stopping them is a good place to start your healing:

• Exercising too much, too little, or using bad form – If you’re doing weight-bearing exercise, then you’re increasing your spine’s bone density. That’s a good thing, and so are exercises that strengthen your core. But if you’re spending your time on exercises like spinning or cycling that have you assuming an uncomfortable forward position, you may be worsening or causing your own neck and back pain. Doing no exercise at all is even worse – your bone density will decline and the muscles that support your spine will be weak.

• Smoking – You already know that smoking is bad for your health, but you may not realize that it is contributing to your back pain. Smoking leads to premature disc degeneration by leaching out moisture. This leaves them dehydrated and more likely to thin and crack.

• Calcium levels – Our bones need calcium to maintain their strength, but many people have eliminated dairy from their diets either to lose weight or to counter the effect of lactose intolerance. If you aren’t getting enough dairy you need to find calcium elsewhere. Good sources include fortified orange juice, leafy green vegetables, canned fish, and supplements. You also need to be aware of your caffeine intake, as it can be impacting your absorption of the calcium that you are taking in.

• Poor posture – If you are constantly leaning over to look at a computer or cell phone screen or simply walk with your shoulders rounded and hunched, then you are helping gravity to hurt your spine. The best way to counter this is to teach yourself to stand straight with your chest lifted and your shoulders down. Yoga instructors may be able to help you accomplish this.

• Medications – If you are taking steroids, it can have a direct softening impact on your bones and spine, and this can lead to osteoporosis and other spine problems. Have a talk with your physician to see whether your medications may be exacerbating your back problems, and if they are whether there are alternative drugs available.

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