Back pain is one of the greatest complaints for which patients seek medical help. There are numerous contributing factors to ill health when it comes to this malady, from bad posture to high heels even a heavy bag can result in back pain

Back pain is one of the most frequent complaints a doctor receives from patients. Statistics show that lumbago – acute lower back pain – is the fifth most commonly cited reason for seeing a doctor and roughly 90 percent of all adults experience back pain at some point in their life. Surprisingly, 50 percent of all working adults experience this every single year. In fact, back pain is the given reason for 40 percent of all sick days taken. Indeed, while it is a prevalent problem, it is one we can actually solve or prevent with healthier habits. Moreover, back pain and its effects is the single leading cause of disability around the world, no matter if you are a farmer in Africa or a financial specialist in lower Manhattan.

The spine, where the vertebral bones align, is a very complex structure. It is a huge network of nerves, bones, ligaments and tendons where they interconnect in a fashion that can easily cause pain. It is not only how they connect, but also their angles, originations and end connections that play a role in keeping this complex structure up right. The spine has four major angulations that give the body its posture. Since it is a musculoskeletal complex, its complaints mostly arise from physical problems.

The daily habits that alter your posture and physique play a tremendous role in causing back pain and can also contribute to disk hernias (slipped disks). These contributing habits may seem like very little things, but when they add up, they become big problems. I will review some of these habits with several examples starting with high heels. Are you a fan of heels? If you are and cannot give them up, at least try to exchange your stilettoes with lower heel pumps, as heels higher than seven-and-a-half centimeters put seven times more pressure on your feet than flats. This ground pressure resonates up to your spine and throws off your posture. Moreover, almost 50 percent of all individuals who wear high heel shoes experience a foot or leg injury that, in turn, causes back pain in the future.

High heels are not the only cause for back pain in women. There are other very common factors such as heavy bags that contribute to this ailment as well. Have you ever thought about what you have in those large tote bags? They probably include many unnecessary objects that you do not even use during the day. Studies have shown that carrying more than 10 percent of your body weight on your shoulder will create an imbalance in your posture. Imagine you are 55 kilograms and carrying a six-kilogram-handbag on your shoulder. In order to keep your posture right, you force your body with the help of your muscles to be up and right, causing strains in the muscles that, in turn, results in back pain. For men, there is a similar issue with their thick wallets. Did you know that thick wallets form wedges that disturb the balance of your pelvis and spine? I advise men to cut down the thickness of their wallets.

For both men and women, there is another problem that causes severe and chronic back pain: Driving for long hours with a bad posture. You may not notice, but in fact bad posture with the micro trauma of driving leads to back pain. It has been estimated that people who drive longer than four hours a day are six times more likely to have severe back pain and miss their work than people who drive less than two hours per day.

You may not be wearing high heels, carrying heavy bags or thick wallets or even drive, but also experience back pain and now wonder why this happens. As I mentioned, back pain and associated problems are mainly caused by physical conditions that alter your posture. Therefore, sitting all day with bad posture while working in an office or slouching on your sofa at home while watching TV are also additional factors that worsen your posture and cause back pain. In fact, bad posture puts an equivalent of 50 kilograms of stress on your lower back, and it has been shown that people who sit for their job experience more back problems than people who perform manual labor – most probably due to their posture on their seats.

You all may have heard that carrying heavy objects and lifting them may cause a disk hernia in your lower back. Indeed, this is really the worst thing you can do to your back. I am sure many of you may not know the correct position to take when lifting that is not harmful to your spine either. The worst move is to bend and twist, that is, lifting something from the ground by bending and putting it aside by twisting your body. This is the move that puts tremendous stress on your spine and takes away the support that is given by your spine’s disks. When you move away, the support on a disk fails and pressure squeezes the disk, they can rupture their membrane and slip into the nerve canal causing a pinch on the nerve. This is known as a slipped disk or a disk hernia. For the record, the better way to lift objects – especially heavy ones – is to lift using your legs instead of your back to keep your spine as straight as possible and to distribute the weight more evenly throughout your body.

For a healthier back, switch to pumps and shorter heels, prepare smaller bags for your daily needs, keep your wallet thinner than a centimeter, take breaks while driving, do not stay glued to your office chair or TV, get up or move during work, lift with your legs when you need something, do not put pressure on your lower back and stretch it out. Stretching our your spine is the best thing you can do for your spine so that it can realign it to its original posture in addition to regular exercise or physical activities like yoga.

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