6 everyday habits that may cause you back pain
A crick in your neck, a stiff shoulder, a twinge in your lower back - at some point we've probably all experienced one or all of these niggles. In fact 1 in 4 UK adults will experience back pain in their lives. So what can you do to prevent those twinges from taking over? Well it might be as simple as altering a few behaviours like those outlined below:
1. Sitting incorrectly at work
If you spend a great deal of your day sat at a desk at work then you might find yourself falling victim to musculoskeletal issues. Sitting incorrectly - slouching, hunching, or just looking at your screen wrong - can cause aches and discomfort.
What can you do? There are a number of small adjustments you can make to your desk and sitting position to keep the strain at bay. From making sure you're computer screen is at the right height (or using a laptop stand) - to correcting your posture and adjusting your chair.
2. Staring at your phone
Every heard of text neck? Chances are it's impacting your day to day! It's pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Imagine you're holding your phone or tablet and texting or reading an article. Are you holding the phone low, parallel with your mid-section and looking down? If so, you could be causing text neck. This curving of your neck as you look puts pressure on your spine. When sat upright your head weighs around 10-12 pounds and exerts that pressure on your spine, but for every degree you tilt your head downwards, that pressure increases. Tilting your head down 60 degrees puts 60lbs of pressure on your spine1! Aside from looking down at your phone and tablet, this could be caused by holding your book or Kindle low, as well as looking down at a laptop screen.
With nearly everyone owning a smartphone and using it daily, this condition is becoming far more common. So what can you do to prevent it? Well it might be a good idea to look at how much you're actually using (and thus looking down at) your phone. Consider raising it higher, to put less pressure on your neck, and take frequent breaks. If you find yourself looking down at a laptop screen a lot, perhaps try using a stand to sit your laptop at eye level and then use a separate keyboard and mouse.
3. Wearing the wrong shoe
Whether it's high heels, or flimsy flats, wearing the wrong pair of shoes can cause strain that travels all the way up from your feet to your back, leaving you in pain. High heels can cause your lower back to be pushed forward, which in turn can lead to your hips and spine being put out of alignment2.
If you think the answer is to swap for a pair of flat shoes - well it is, but you're only half way there. Flat shoes like ballet pumps and flip flops can do damage themselves if they don't have proper support. It's best to look for a shoe with arch support that is properly fitted on your foot so your feet don't slide around in them.
4. Driving with bad posture
Sitting behind the wheel can lead to painful aches and strains in your back, especially if you spend quite a bit of time there. According to BackCare 30-60% of drivers report driving leading to or exacerbating back pain. To stay on top of it, make sure to take regular breaks if you're driving for prolonged periods of time, and ensure that your seat is adjusted so that it is comfortable and helps you keep correct posture. And here are some good tips from the Telegraph on how to adjust your seat.
5. Carrying a heavy bag
The joy of carrying a big bag around is that your everyday essentials are never far from hand! A bottle of water, a book, an umbrella - it's easy enough to add to the weight. However, there are consequences to hefting that bag around all day. By balancing all that weight on a single shoulder, you are throwing your body out of balance and warping your posture3. To reduce this - try minimizing the amount of weight you're toting around each day, and alternate the shoulder you carry it on often. If you must carry a heavy load, consider using a backpack which will evenly distribute the weight.
6. Reading in bed
If you enjoy reading in bed, or using a laptop or tablet or your mobile, you may want to think about your posture when doing so. If you find yourself half laying down, half propped up on pillows, then you may be causing strain on your spine and neck, resulting in pain. For optimum support, trying sitting upright in bed whilst reading etc.