7 Habits Causing Your Lower Back Pain
While nearly half of healthy, active people over age 60 experience lower back pain, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society , such flare-ups aren’t necessarily an inevitable feature of aging. Every day, seemingly innocuous habits (hunching over your computer while reading this, anyone?) can trigger the pain, says Joel Press, physiatrist-in-chief at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
You sit all day
“The more you sit the more pressure you put on the cushioned discs between the bones in your back,” says Press. But that doesn’t mean you’re doomed if you have a desk job. “Every 30 minutes, get up and walk around,”
You hold all your emotions in
If you keep a stiff upper lip, your back may pay for it. People who shut down or “stonewall” during a fight with their partner are at higher risk of developing back pain, according to a 2016 study published in the journal Emotion. One reason may be that those who are upset or anxious are more likely to tense back muscles.
You’re sleeping on the wrong mattress
A medium firm mattress, as opposed to a very firm mattress, appears to be best for your back, according to a 2015 review published in the medical journal Sleep Health. But perhaps even more important than the firmness of your mattress is how old it is.
You have a poor diet
There’s some thought that an anti-inflammatory diet — one that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein such as fish and chicken, and healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil — may help tamp down inflammation in the body that can worsen chronic pain, including back pain, Press says. But eating this sort of healthy fare may also reduce your back pain simply because it can lead to weight loss.
You have bad posture
Anytime you slouch or stoop, your back muscles and ligaments strain to keep you balanced, which can cause stress on the back, Khelemsky says. When standing, make sure your shoulders are back, your stomach is pulled in, and your feet are about shoulder-width apart. When sitting, keep your feet flat on the floor, with your thighs parallel to them, legs uncrossed. If your chair can’t support your lower back, place a small pillow behind it.
You ramp up activity too quickly
“If you go on a week-long golf vacation and your balls have been gathering dust in storage for the last 10 years, you’re asking for trouble,” Press says. Even if you’re in decent physical shape, just the twisting and turning involved in certain activities like golf can cause back strain. “Your spine and back muscles are less forgiving than when you were younger, so you need to make sure your body is prepared for the load put on it,” adds Press. Whether you’re headed for a golf, tennis or yoga outing, fit in some practice time a few weeks ahead.