This week, we’re celebrating Bone and Joint Action Week. Over half of all Americans over the age of 18 suffer from some sort of musculoskeletal condition, such as arthritis, back pain, osteoporosis, and trauma. In fact, these conditions are the most common cause of severe long-term pain and physical disability worldwide. Over time, they can lead to decreased productivity in work or at home, as well as a diminish in quality of life.
While a lot of back pain stems from unavoidable ailments such as old age or disease, plenty of cases are caused by completely preventable situations. If you are a frequent sufferer of back aches, then you may want to consider the cause. By learning more about the common causes of back pain, you can figure out the best way to make it stop.
1. Lying Down or Sitting Too Much
Since all of our patients are homebound, many of them do not have the ability to walk around freely. Some patients are even confined to bed, too weak or sick to even get up at all. Unfortunately, this can wreak havoc on your back. This happens because the discs that line and cushion your vertebrae are compacted when you are sitting. This prevents fluid from reaching the discs, preventing them from getting the nutrients they need to keep doing their job. In fact, sitting puts more pressure on your back than standing or lying down, and can even cause long term damage if you do it all day every day. To prevent this, try and get up at least every 20 minutes to give your back a break, use a back support in your chair, and don’t lean forward too much.
2. Weakness in the Core
Again, because many of our patients are just coming out of the hospital and are weak, they usually don’t have great core strength. Your core includes your ab, back, side, pelvic, and buttock muscles, all of which work together to help support your spine. These are the muscles that allow you to twist, bend, rotate, and stand up straight. Without these muscles, your back is in danger of being unsupported. A core weak leads to slouching, which causes pain in your back. Remedy this problem by doing stretches and exercises like lunges, squats, and planks to strength your muscles.
3. Sleeping Incorrectly
You might not think there’s a wrong way to sleep, but there is. Laying on your stomach while catching some Zs actually puts a lot of pressure on your joints and muscles, keeping everything tight and compressed. Laying on your bed, on the other hand, allows your spine to stay long and neutral throughout the night. Additionally, it is important to choose the right kind of mattress to optimize spine comfort. Always go with a medium firmness as this is the best surface to keep your spine happy. Use a pillow that keeps your head in line with your spine throughout the night.
4. Emotional Instability
Mental illness is known for terrorizing the mind, but it can also have palpable effects on the body. A study from the University of Alberta has revealed that people with major depression were four times as likely to suffer from low back and neck pain. They think it’s because depression can trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol, leading to increased muscle tension in the shoulders and back. Additionally, depression makes it hard to find motivation for moving or exercising. However, moving and being active is actually a treatment for both depression and back aches, so it’s important to try and overcome the urge to lay in bed.
Don’t forget to let your nurse or therapist know if you are suffering back pain. If you doctor agrees, we can have a physical therapist come to visit you and provide alleviating treatment. He or she will provide you with exercises to strengthen your core and get your back feeling better.