Back pain is one of the most common fallouts of everyday life. But even dumping your heels and stretching may not help your spine.
New research shows that a vast majority of backaches are the result of cumulative effects of lifestyle that we often ignore. Simple daily habits such as hunching to read your smart phone or slouching in front of your computer can, over time, strain your spine and the surrounding muscles, leaving you vulnerable to serious back injury. Here are the habits to watch out for:
Forget heavy lifting — sitting hunched over a computer all day is poison for your back. Research has found that people with desk jobs suffer more back pain than those working in manual jobs. Using your joints and spine strengthens them, reducing risk of injury. But inactivity weakens them, which makes you more prone to problems.
Fix it: Get up and walk around for two minutes, at least once an hour, and improve your posture while you’re sitting down. Aim for a “neutral spine position”, in which everything is in line, with no strain spots. Your shoulders should be relaxed, feet flat on the floor, and eyes in line with the middle of your screen.
This seemingly innocuous, activity is apparently a very common cause of back pain — thanks to its sheer force. A sneeze’s speed of release can be up to 100 miles per hour, and our first instinct is to cover our faces and turn away. According to Janet Wakley, author of The Smart Guide to Back Care, this instinctive turn is terrible for our backs. “Spontaneously twisting to the side, combined with the force used by the chest muscles to sneeze, can wrench back muscles in a second,” she says.
Fix it: Turn your body when you’re about to sneeze, so that your back remains straight.
Wearing high heels, pumps
Yes, tottering in high heels for long periods can make your back sore, but too much time in the wrong flats can do just as much damage. Heels cause problems because they force your foot forward, altering your body’s angle. Since your weight isn’t evenly distributed over the spine, it can trigger pain from your knees all the way up to your back. But ballet pumps and flip-flops aren’t any better as they allow your foot to slide around. The lack of stability that this causes puts pressure on your spine.
Fix it: Ensure your shoe holds your foot firmly in place. Alternate between high heels, mids and flats. By wearing different shoes every day, you lessen your chance of experiencing long-term problems caused by using only one type of shoe.
Your favourite bra
Figures suggest 80 per cent women wear an ill-fitting bra. This can cause several muscular problems. A bad bra can lead to hunching and sore neck and back muscles, while one that gives proper support can minimise that forward hunch and relieve pain.
Fix it: Get measured by a trained bra-fitter. Go for styles with wider shoulder straps or a racer-style back, which offer better support and draw you to pull your shoulders back.
Your pot belly
Even an extra couple of pounds around your middle makes your pelvis tilt forward. This puts it out of alignment as your body works to rebalance itself. Also, this means that your spine isn’t getting enough support from your abdominal muscles, which can cause excessive strain on your lower back.
Fix it: Don’t do sit-ups — they won’t flatten your tummy if there’s fat on top. Fat-burning cardiovascular exercises, such as running or swimming, for 45 minutes, three times a week, are more effective at shifting the bulge.
The head-down position that you use to look at phones, iPads and laptops strains the muscles in the neck and the pain can extend to your lower back. Using them for hours on end means your body will eventually start to adopt this hunched position.
Fix it: Make sure you take frequent screen breaks. Try to look straight ahead and not down at your screen.