If nagging lower back pain has you feeling stiff and sore, you’re not alone. In fact, the American Chiropractic Association estimates that upwards of 80% of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives. If you’re doing all the right things to treat your lower back pain and it is still sticking around, you may want to make sure you’re not making one of these five common mistakes.
1. Improper Lifting
Whether you’re picking up your small children, helping to transfer your aging parent in and out of the car, or lifting heavy loads like furniture or groceries, your form could be killing your back—literally. Improper lifting and other causes of back pain associated with carrying heavy loads strain muscles in the back, leading to inflammation, pain, and limited range of motion. When possible, always lift from waist height (not from the floor) and use your legs to support your momentum, not your back.
2. Using the Same Shoulder
Do you carry a purse or bag? Chances are it’s heavier than it needs to be and that you carry it on the same shoulder every time you head out the door. This seemingly harmless habit could be doing a number on your back, tugging and pulling at muscles and tendons on the opposite side of your spine over time, causing them to strain and become inflamed. Lighten the load and be mindful of switching your purse from side to side when wearing it for long periods.
3. Text Neck
Did you know that for every 15 degrees you tilt your head forward to look down at the smartphone in your hands, the pressure on your spine increases significantly? Researchers have found that the average human head, which weighs between 10 and 12 lbs, actually feels more like 25 or even 40 lbs when the neck is craned forward past the shoulders and the head tilts down. Essentially, the spine has to work overtime to compensate for the force of gravity pulling the head toward the ground. Avoid text neck by raising your smartphone up to your face when using it, calling people instead of texting, or using type-to-text features instead of typing each text out.
4. Prolonged Sitting
Alarming new research links prolonged bouts of sitting with early mortality and many lifestyle diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It is also a major culprit for back pain, as excessive sitting places undue pressure on the spine, compressing the vertebrae and stressing the adjoining tissues. If your job or lifestyle has you spending long periods sitting, start a new habit of getting up at least every 30 minutes to stretch and move around. Try to stand more as well by walking laps when you take a call or using a standing desk when working.
5. Skipping Exercise
A sore back may feel like a good reason to skip your regular exercise; however, that couldn’t be more incorrect. Low-impact exercise like swimming, brisk walking, cycling, and yoga actually serve as tools for treating low back pain, as they gently stretch and strengthen core muscles, boost circulation, and loosen stiff joints. If you are an avid fitness buff and still experience back pain, you might want to look at which muscle groups you engage the most with exercise. Overworking the chest, for example, can leave the upper and lower back weak and vulnerable to injury.