What Causes Low Back Pain?
According to statistics, if you haven’t had back pain, just wait, because chances are, you will. The following list is a list of answers as to what causes low back pain. Fix these and you can reduce your risk for a back pain episode.
- MATTRESS: Which type of mattress is best? The “short answer”: there is no single mattress (style or type) for all people, primarily due to body type, size, gender, and what “feels good.” TRY laying on a variety of mattresses (for several minutes on your back and sides) and check out the difference between coiled, inner springs, foam (of different densities), air, waterbeds, etc. The thickness of a mattress can vary from 7 to 18 inches (~17-45 cm) deep. Avoid mattresses that feel like you’re sleeping in a hammock! A “good” mattress should maintain your natural spinal curves when lying on your sides or back (avoid sleeping on your stomach). Try placing a pillow between the knees and “hug” a pillow when side sleeping, as it can act like a “kick stand” and prevent you from rolling onto your stomach. If your budget is tight, you can “cheat” by placing a piece of plywood between the mattress and box spring as a short-term fix.
- SHOES: Look at the bottom of your favorite pair of shoes and check out the “wear pattern.” If you have worn out soles or heels, you are way overdue for a new pair or a “re-sole” by your local shoe cobbler! If you work on your feet, then it’s even more important for both managing and preventing low back pain.
- DIET: A poor diet leads to obesity, which is a MAJOR cause of low back pain. Consider the Paleo or Mediterranean Diet and STAY AWAY from fast food! Identify the two or three “food abuses” you have embraced and eliminate them – things with empty calories like soda, ice cream, chips… you get the picture! Keeping your BMI (Body Mass Index) between 20 and 25 is the goal. Positive “side-effects” include increased longevity, better overall health, and an improved quality of life.
- EXERCISE: The most effective self-help approach to low back pain management is exercise. Studies show that those who exercise regularly hurt less, see doctors less, have a higher quality of life, and just feel better. Plus, exercise helps keep your weight in check. Think of hamstring stretches and core strengthening as important low back pain managers – USE PROPER TECHNIQUE AND FORM
- POSTURE: Another important “self-help” trick of the trade is to avoid sitting slumped over with an extreme forward head carriage positions. Remember that every inch your head pokes forward places an additional ten pounds (~4.5 kg) of load on your upper back muscles to keep your head upright, and sitting slumped increases the load on your entire back!
- OFFICE CHAIR: Because of vast differences between people’s height, weight, body type, and preference, it’s difficult — if not impossible — to find a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to office chairs! In the ideal world, the option to sit, stand, walk, and stretch as needed would be perfect but this simply is not reality. Low back pain from sitting is common due to the excess pressure it places on the joints and discs (the “shock-absorbers” of the spine). Here are some remedies: 1) Find a chair that FITS YOU. 2) Get up and move at least once every hour (set the timer on your smartphone as a reminder). 3) Place the computer monitor directly in front of you and keyboard/mouse so the elbows bend only 90°. 4) Keep your feet on the floor at your desk (use an upside down box if you have short legs). 5) Perform “in the chair” stretches when your timer goes off and get up, take a break and move around.
- BODY TYPE: We’ve discussed obesity as an obvious cause of back pain, but other factors are important as well. A very common cause of back pain for women is breast size. Here, the topic of a supportive bra is important, as carrying more weight in front of you adds additional stress on the back and shoulders.
- SHOULDER BAGS: Back pain can be caused and/or made worse by a heavy purse, bag, briefcase, and even a thick wallet in the back pocket! To keep your eyes level, your body has to compensate and assume a less-than-ideal posture that may place unnecessary stress on your back. So before leaving the house today, CLEAN OUT that bag and/or put your wallet in a front pocket and lessen the load on your spine.
- SMOKING: Smoking can reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches your cells, which can cause them to function at a less than optimal state. Maybe you’ve heard that a conscientious back surgeon will NEVER operate on a smokers’ back due to both the prolonged healing time and subsequent bad outcomes. So in addition to giving your heart, lungs, and those around you a break, if you want your lower back to heal, STOP SMOKING. Studies also show that smokers are TWICE as likely to develop low back pain compared to non-smokers… so quit. Better yet, DON’T START in the first place.
- STRESS & DEPRESSION: Remember, “health” is a balance between structure, chemistry, and mental factors. Stress increases muscle tightness and alters posture in a way that can lead to or worsen existing low back pain. Exercise, meditate, eat smart, and resolve your differences with family members and friends to minimize this problem… and get help when you need it.
- ERGONOMICS: How we “fit” into our job, lifting properly, workstation set up, work pace, and work stressors ALL play into low back pain management. Have an assessment to see if you have proper ergonomics at your job. If you notice that your back hurts at work, you may not have proper ergonomics… or you’re not taking enough breaks to relax your back… or you have a job that’s not back-friendly. One common mistake young people make is doing manual jobs that are hard on the back. When you’re young, you feel strong and flexible, but certain jobs make you prone to back injuries… and you’ll usually feel the damage you’ve done to your back as you get older.
Dr. John Falkenroth, D.C. put together the above information about the causes of low back pain. To discover how to relieve your low back pain, order a FREE copy of Dr. Falkenroth’s book, “How To Relieve Back Pain Without Back Surgery.” This book will show you what back pain exercises you should do based on what position hurts your back the most. The book will also give you the other helpful advice that Dr. Falkenroth gives to his patients with low back pain. To get your free copy of the book below, click on the box below that says “FREE BACK PAIN BOOK.”