We all experience back pain sometimes. In fact, an estimated 31 million Americans experience back pain on any given day, and a whopping 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their life. While some cases of back pain are caused by serious underlying medical conditions, the majority are simply caused by lifestyle factors. That’s right – there may be things you do every day without even thinking about it that are causing your back pain.
If your back pain is caused by lifestyle factors, that’s actually good news. That means you can heal your back pain on your own, without going to the doctor, just by making some changes to your daily routine and adopting some healthy new habits.
When it comes to lifestyle factors that cause back pain, there are a handful of common culprits. These are the three worst offenders:
- Lugging around heavy purses and briefcases
- Wearing uncomfortable shoes with little to no arch support
- Sitting all day long at your desk at work
Any of those behaviors sound familiar? If you’re like most Americans, you’re probably guilty of all three. So let’s explore how you can change the lifestyle factors causing your back pain to find relief from serious back pain – both now and in the future.
- Use a backpack.
The trend of giant, oversized bags started a few years ago and has no signs of slowing down. The downside is that if you make a bag bigger, we’ll find a way to fill it. So as bags get bigger, they also get heavier. Add to that the fact that more and more employees are issued company laptops that they lug from work to home and back again, and you get millions of Americans carrying around ridiculously heavy bags that weren’t designed for comfort. Men, don’t think you’re exempt – briefcases and messenger bags are just as bad.
Save yourself from back pain by switching to a backpack. Backpacks distribute the weight evenly across both your shoulders, so you’re not weighing yourself down on one side and giving yourself a lopsided limp. They’re also usually designed with padded straps, placing less strain on your shoulder muscles.
- Alternate carrying sides.
You can’t use style as an excuse not to switch to a backpack, since many major bag retailers now sell sleek, business-appropriate models. But if you’re really determined not to give up your oversized tote or briefcase, at least make an effort to adopt some more back-friendly habits.
While we all have a preferred side for carrying bags, like we do for most things, it’s better to switch sides throughout the day. Always carrying a heavy bag on the same side means you’re only putting the strain on that side of your body. Switching sides will help distribute the weight, decreasing the risk for overstraining. It might feel unnatural at first, but the more you do it, the more comfortable it will seem.
- Reconsider your footwear.
What you wear on your feet has a huge impact on how your back feels. Wearing uncomfortable shoes can negatively impact your back in a variety of ways. Shoes with proper arch support help to align your legs and spine properly while you walk and stand. Shoes with good cushioning help minimize the impact when your foot hits the ground. High heels or ill-fitting shoes, on the other hand, make you more prone to bad posture and de-stabilize you, increasing the chance of falling. When it comes to eliminating and preventing back pain, the importance of good footwear can not be overstated.
- Use a standing desk converter.
Our bodies weren’t designed to spend hours every day in a seated position. We were designed for an upright, active lifestyle – not a sedentary one. Sitting too much places excess stress on the joints, discs, and ligaments in your lower back, causing back pain. It’s no coincidence that over 54% of chronic back pain sufferers report spending at least eight hours a day sitting down at work.
If you have a desk job, you may not have much of a choice in how many hours a day you have to be at your desk. What you can control, however, is how ergonomic your desk set-up is. Using a desk riser allows you to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day, giving your back a break from the compression of sitting. Standing also helps strengthen back and leg muscles, further protecting against back strain.