Are you tired of dealing with an achy, uncomfortable back? Before you schedule a chiropractic appointment or start worrying about physical therapy, you should consider some of the lesser-known causes of back pain. Here are five surprising reasons you might be living with back pain and what to do about it.
Most people realize that failing to drink enough water can cause a parched mouth or painful headaches, but few folks realize just how heavily your spine relies on water to stay strong and functional. The cushions between your discs are made up mostly of water, which means dehydration can cause the bones in your back to grind together, resulting in serious pain.
Being properly hydrated also helps to maintain the space between the discs, allowing for easier bending, twisting and stretching. Furthermore, dehydration actually has been found to cause degenerative structural problems. For example, if you have scoliosis, being perpetually dehydrated can exacerbate the condition.
To ward off dehydration-related back problems, carefully monitor your daily water intake. As a general rule, adults should be drinking at least eight 8-oz. glasses of water per day. To make it easier to consume this much water, start carrying around a water bottle with measurement marks on the side, and then tallying your hydration in your smartphone. Before you know it, you will be drinking what you should be each day without a second thought.
Smoking can hurt more than your teeth, gums, heart and lungs. Believe it or not, smoking can damage the delicate vasculature of your spine, contributing to the deterioration of the vertebrae and the discs between those vertebrae. Smoking has been linked to hypertension and spinal lumbar spondylosis.
If you are a current smoker, talk with your doctor about ways to stop. The FDA has approved several smoking cessation medications that can help people reduce their cravings to make recovery much easier. The sooner you stop smoking, the sooner your body can start recovering and the less likely you are to develop back and neck pain.
3. Outdated Mattresses
How long ago did you buy your mattress? Although it can be easy to ignore an aging mattress if it’s constantly covered up, the simple fact of the matter is mattresses need to be replaced periodically to protect your spine health.
Over time, the springs and metal framework that make up the mattress’ interior can become less flexible, creating noises or stiff spots that can make it hard to get restful sleep. Interior cushioning can become dirty, matted, or lumpy, causing excessive tossing and turning. The structure near the edge of your mattress is especially vulnerable to damage, eventually losing its ability to provide support and limiting your bed’s usable sleeping surface.
If you can’t remember when you purchased your mattress or it feels uncomfortable, it is time to throw it out and find a new one. Mattresses typically have a lifespan of between nine and 10 years, but they should be replaced sooner than that if you have trouble getting quality sleep.
If you are worried about hauling that mattress to the dump, you shouldn’t be. Some businesses, including some mattress stores, offer free removal and disposal of your old mattress. Then you can sit back and enjoy your new investment.
4. Poor Abdominal Strength
When was the last time you worked on your abs? If you don’t think of your abdominal muscles as a top priority when you hit the gym, your spine might be paying for it.
Most people assume back muscles are mainly responsible for the support of your back and spine. However, the truth is your abdominal muscles and core strength play a large role in helping you stay upright and comfortable. Without proper core strength, your back muscles have to do all of the work, which can lead to muscle strain and spasms.
To keep your core healthy and strong, try low-impact exercises that target the entire body, such as swimming. Swimming allows you to get a great workout while supporting the weight of your body, soothing tired joints and allowing you full range of motion.
5. Heavy Accessories
You might love that big hobo bag, but it might not be loving you back. Heavy accessories — such as backpacks, messenger bags, purses or diaper bags — can put extra strain on you while you walk, go up stairs, or sit down. That can put you at a higher risk for back injury. If you want to keep your back safe, go through your bags and leave anything that you don’t need at home. The less you have to carry around, the better it is for your back.
If you make these changes in your day-to-day life and still experience debilitating back pain, see your doctor as soon as you can. By taking x-rays of your vertebral column and carefully evaluating the alignment of your spine, your doctor can create a treatment plan to help ward off some of your symptoms. However, many people find that investing in adjustable mattress bases, exercising and eliminating heavy accessories can help their backs to feel much better.