Risk Factors for Developing Low Back Pain
The statistics on low back pain are worrying to say the least. They show that 5 in 10 Canadians suffer lower back pain; millions of Americans experience low back pain at any given time; 85% of working people are guaranteed to experience low back pain; almost all of us will experience low back pain once or more during our lifetimes… and the list goes on. So, if you have not experienced low back pain, all indications show that you will sooner or later. The good news, however, is that you can take steps to avoid low back pain or at the very least minimize the frequency of low back pain outbreaks. By learning the risk factors of low back pain, you will be able to know what to avoid in order to reduce your chances of developing this common discomfort.
Age is one of the leading causes of low back pain. In fact, it is estimated that most people will experience low back pain by the time they get to age 50. Therefore, the older you get, the higher your risk of developing back pain.
Low back pain is common among older people due to an accumulation of wear and tear of the spine over the years. Basically, the worse the damage that time has dealt the spine, the higher the risk of developing pain in the lower back.
Unfortunately, your genes can put you at a higher risk of suffering low back pain. Some spine disorders such as degenerative disc disease and spinal misalignments develop in people with certain genetic components. Anyone with these genes is doomed to experience low back pain that can easily become chronic.
Any type of prolonged poor posture such as slouching or slumping puts pressure on the back. If this goes on over a long period of time, chances of developing low back pain increase substantially. What’s more, poor posturing weakens the spine and back muscles thus making one highly likely to suffer injury that will lead to back pain.
For some jobs, low back pain comes as an occupational hazard. These include any job that involves a lot of heavy lifting, bending, standing, twisting, pulling or pushing of things, or frequent sitting. Jobs that expose workers to constant vibrations also expose one to a greater risk of developing low back pain.
Some of the life choices you make may play a part in triggering low back pain. A few examples of such choices include:
- Smoking: Nicotine has been shown to reduce oxygen and supply of oxygenated blood to spinal discs. Therefore, continued smoking can lead to disc damage that will result in back pain.
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle: Studies show that inactivity not only increases occurrence of back pain but also increases the severity of pain during outbreaks. This is mainly because inactivity leaves back muscles quite weak.
- Sport choices: While sports offer a great way of unwinding and exercising, some put a lot of pressure on the back and increase likelihood of suffering back pain triggering injuries. These include sports such as skiing, football, rugby, gymnastics, wrestling, and any other sport that involves use of back muscles and includes a lot of contact between players.
While anyone can suffer from low back pain, the above factors put you at a greater risk. Luckily, some of them can be avoided. For instance, if you avoid overexerting the spinal column and back muscles, your back will be at a much healthier state when you grow old. This means lesser chances of experiencing low back pain. Additionally, maintaining good posture at all times, exercising regularly, and practicing good healthy habits, are all activities that can greatly reduce your chances of developing low back pain.
6 Tips for Keeping Your Back Healthy
When back pain strikes, your quality of life tends to diminish significantly. You may not be able to go to work, engage in your favorite social activities, or even accomplish simple everyday tasks. To top it up, back pain can significantly affect your overall health, mood, and sleep patterns. The only way to successfully avoid back pain and all its negative effects is to simply take care of your spine. The following are a few tips on how to keep your spine healthy and your back in good shape.
1) Maintain a Good Posture at all Times
A bad posture puts pressure on the bones and discs of the spine, thereby creating or aggravating a painful back. Therefore, the best way to keep your back healthy and avoid developing pain is to ensure you maintain a good posture with every activity you engage in. This entails:
- Maintaining the natural curve of your spine when seated, especially if you will remain sitting for a long time. This can be done by sitting with your back straight, shoulders back, buttocks touching the back of the chair, and feet flat on the floor.
- Keeping the shoulders back, head straight, and knees slightly bent with one foot in front of the other when standing for long hours. This posture helps take off some of the strain on the lower back.
- Lifting items (especially heavy ones) using your legs and not your back. This can be achieved by bending the knees and keeping your back straight when lifting items.
2) Exercise Regularly
Like any other body part, the spine and back muscles get stronger with regular exercise. Exercise has been proven to enhance endurance, reduce back stiffness, rejuvenate overused back muscles, and allow for a healthy exchange of fluids between discs. This makes regular exercise a very powerful tool for keeping the back healthy. What’s more, exercise helps eliminate stress and excess fat both of which are known risk factors of back problems.
3) Stretch Out Your Spine at Least Twice a Day
In addition to exercising regularly, it is important that you also perform stretch exercises in the morning before heading to work and at night right before bedtime. This is because most back problems are caused by tightening of the hamstrings, hip flexors, and calf muscles. A good stretch routine will loosen everything up and thereby promote your spinal health.
4) Eat Right
A healthy diet will help keep the nerves and muscles of your back nourished, healthy, and strong. This in turn puts the back at a better position of handling the everyday stress that it is subjected to. Some of the foods known to promote a healthy back and spine include anti-oxidant rich foods, proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
5) Allow your back to Rest Properly at Night
The spine and back muscles get strained daily whether the day is spent sitting, standing, driving, running errands, or engaging in any other activity. This is why you should allow your back to unwind and rejuvenate at the end of the night by getting enough sleep and sleeping in the right position. The best sleeping positions are;
- On your back with a pillow positioned under the knees
- On your side with knees slightly bent and a long pillow between the knees
While it is a common practice to sleep on the belly, avoid this habit as it puts strain on your lower back.
6) Avoid Overloading Your Backpack or Purse
Carrying a heavy backpack, purse, or even a young child on a regular basis causes unnecessary strain on the back and neck. So, keep your luggage bags light or try using ergonomic options such as pull along hand luggage suitcases or child carriers.
While back pain is one of the leading reasons for visits to the doctor’s office, you do not have to put up with the pain. Put these tips into practice and you will be able to avoid the various common back problems including pain.