The world seems to be filled with unfun statistics at the moment. And while they certainly aren’t the most worrying out there, the statistics on back pain in the United States should certainly give us some food for thought. About a quarter of the population is estimated to be suffering from lower back pain. And, if you think that’s something trivial that we shouldn’t concern ourselves with too much, then you need to start thinking about the problem from different perspectives.
First of all, lower back pain has been found in several studies to be the world’s leading cause of disability. When people think about disability, they often think about much more severe conditions. But those who have ever suffered lower back pain – and you probably have at some point in your life! – know precisely how ‘disabling’ it can be. If you’re having trouble imagining it, then think about the time you’ve had such pain, then imagine that pain basically not going away. Ouch.
Another scary thing about this is that it may very well hint at another problem that many of us are dealing with. Lower back pain is a very common result of sitting down too much and not getting enough exercise. Those who write for a living, or aspire to, probably need to be particularly worried about this sort of thing!
We’re going to take a quick look at the problem of back pain. After all, it affects your stress levels, productivity, happiness, health… pretty much everything!
The precise problem
If you’re suffering from back pain, then you need to be careful not to assume what the cause of the issue might be. This article will be suggesting causes and highlighting common problems, but the fact is that your back pain may be caused by something entirely different, even if you live a lifestyle that would suggest a simpler explanation.
A lot of people assume that their back pain is something they can’t do anything about. Hereditary back pain is quite common, but it’s often assumed to be the case simply because someone’s parent has also, at some point, had a bad back. Others will assume that they sleep at awkward angles without being aware of it. Others will chalk it up to having lifted something really heavy at some point in the past.
Basically, one of the best things you can do is see a doctor about your back pain, especially if it’s persistent. There are a lot of medical problems that have back pain as a peripheral symptom, meaning that there may be another condition entirely that you need to worry about! As www.MayoClinic.org suggests, make sure you get checked out and have a detailed discussion with your doctor before making any lifestyle changes.
For the most part, back pain is caused by the accretion of the effects of bad habits that most people have. Perhaps the most common, as was highlighted earlier, has to do with sitting down for most of the day and not getting enough exercise.
As a result of our increasing independence from needing the majority of the working force engaged in physically demanding manual labor, more of us than ever are now working desk jobs. Some may assume that this would help our backs; after all, they don’t call factory jobs and construction jobs ‘back-breaking’ for nothing! But the truth is that this sedentary lifestyle that so many of us lead is actually damaging our backs at a similar rate, if not more so.
A lot of people are aware of some connection with prolonged sitting and back pain. The assumption is usually that bad posture is the culprit. It is true that there are certain sitting postures that are worse for your back than others, and that adopting a good posture can help your back tremendously. www.Greatist.com has some good advice when it comes to sitting posture, but remember: a lot of people actually massively overestimate the role that bad posture plays in long-term, seat-related back pain.
The problem isn’t so much with how you sit, but with how long you sit.
No matter what posture you employ, the act of sitting down make certain muscles in your lower back and hips tense up. And when you hold that position for long enough, your back starts to hurt. Over time, damage starts to build. So one of the best things you can do, instead of trying to force yourself into what you’ve been told is good posture (which, if it makes you uncomfortable, probably isn’t that helpful anyway), is to ensure that you’re not just sitting down for long periods.
It’s recommended that you get up from your chair at least once an hour (or maybe every 90 minutes) and do some stretches, along with some light walking in the general vicinity. This gives your back a break, as well as other important muscles in that general area.
Of course, it’s not just about the length of time at which you’re sitting; you also need to consider the type of chair you’re using! The fact is that a lot of us don’t really take the time to consider the seating that we choose. Most of us buy the seats that we have because they didn’t feel uncomfortable when we tried them out and because we could afford them.
The problem that can really lock us into back troubles is that most of us don’t actually choose the seat that we spend the most time in: our work seats! This is why ergonomics has been such a important word in modern offices. If employers can’t provide seats that will allow their employees to work comfortably, then they could be held responsible for pain or injuries that employees incur as a result. Many people, however, seem to accept uncomfortable work chairs.
Whether at home or in the office, you need to ensure you’re using the right kind of chair. A lot of people think that high rigidity is required, but this isn’t always the case; very rigid chairs don’t tend to support your body shape. The truth is that it’s usually better for the surface to conform to your body, rather than your body having to conform to the surface. This is why bean bags are becoming more popular in offices, as well as in homes. Far from being a juvenile indulgence, well-made bean bags, such as the ones you can find at www.ComfySacks.com, can actually help your back by providing the right mix of softness, conformity, and support.
Exercise is essential
So you’ve already got the gist that sitting down for long periods is going to damage your back; by extension of that logic, it’s pretty clear that exercising is necessary to maintain back health and comfort. But if you’re already suffering from back pain, you may be reluctant to do any exercising, especially if you’re afraid that you’ll just end up exacerbating the problem.
But the truth is that remaining still and dormant can actually make the pain worse. Extra blood flow to a given area helps massively with pain relief as well as long-term healing, and that’s precisely what exercise does.
Of course, if you do have back problems, then there are certain things that may do more harm than good. This is why it’s important to speak to your doctor about the issue, as we highlighted earlier. In general, a brisk walk for at least half an hour a day will do a lot of good for your back. www.EverydayHealth.com is a good resource if you want to know more about the best types of exercise for your back along with the ones you should avoid. There are exercises that work very well – and some that should be avoided at all costs, specifically because they inflict back pain. (Sit-ups, for example, do more harm than good to your body.)
Stress and anxiety
You may have heard that stress and anxiety can also cause back pain (or maybe this is the first time you’ve heard of it!). While there are connections, it’s important to understand that the science isn’t quite as clear-cut as many would have you believe.
Stress and anxiety aren’t known, in themselves, to be common direct causes of back pain. (It should be highlighted that there are cases in which physical pain is sometimes a manifestation of a mental problem such as depression and stress, however – stomach pain is more common than back pain, though.) You can read more about this at www.Spine-Health.com. The problem is that stress, anxiety, and other mood disorders tend to contribute to behaviors that exacerbate back pain. Less exercise, increase inactivity, bad posture, and – perhaps most importantly – hypersensitivity to pain.
Of course, It doesn’t help that increased back pain leads to increased stress, anxiety, and low moods!
If you’re experiencing both back pain and these sorts of mood problems, it’s important that you try tackling both. You may want to consider going at the stress problems first, as they can have severe long-term health effects, and solutions to these problems are often a good springboard from which to launch solutions to your back problems. www.PsychologyToday.com has some tips that you may find very useful.