Why Does My Lower Back Hurt? 7 Daily Habits That Might Be Making The Pain Worse
I can't tell you how many times I've just been going about my day, doing nothing physically taxing at all, but have still had to very painfully ask myself, uh, why does my lower back hurt? Yes, sometimes my back aches like I took a 10-mile hike uphill while holding a boulder above my head, when in reality, the pain is seemingly coming out of nowhere, and I can't place the cause of its discomfort at all.
I know for a fact I'm not alone in this. According to The American Chiropractic Association, lower back pain is one of the main causes for missing work, and an estimated 80 percent of working Americans say they've struggled with lower back pain at some point in their lives. Moreover, back pain is one of the main causes of disability worldwide. That's a lot of achin' backs, my friends — a lot.
While I often associate lower back pain with doing something major, like pulling a muscle while trying to lift a couch, it turns out there are a lot of everyday habits and tasks that can both cause and exacerbate the weakness and pain of the lower back. Here are a few to consider as you go about your day so you can minimize the pain as much as possible.
1. TBH, Not Doing Much Of Anything
Yep, you can actually struggle from lower back pain if you tend to sit a lot and don't do much exercise — aka if you're someone who likes to do a whole lot of nothing most days. This type of lethargy can weaken the muscles of your back, making it a lot easier for them to be strained by even mildly strenuous everyday activities when they do require your effort.
William Watters III, MD, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine health at Houston Methodist Specialty Physician Group, told Everyday Health that exercising is crucial in maintaining the health of your lower back:
Aim to do cardiovascular and strength exercises two or three times a week — especially those that strengthen the abdominal and back muscles, which are a critical factor in diminishing lower back pain.
You heard 'em; make sure you're getting plenty of exercise to help combat all that sitting.
2. Your Mattress Or Pillows Aren't Supportive
Yeah, you very well might have woken up with a bad back not only because your mattress isn't supportive enough, but because your pillow sucks, too.
With that in mind, it's definitely worth investing in a mattress that supports your back. Everyone is different in terms of the type of mattress that might work best for them, but I personally have had great luck with firm memory foam.
3. Certain Workouts
It's true that not every type of exercise is made for every body, so be aware of what feels good for your body, and what might be causing unnecessary stress or strain. You are always the best judge of what works on your bod!
And the truth is, there are a lot of exercises that can be tricky for the lower back, especially if the core muscles are usually disengaged throughout the day. Try doing exercises that work specifically and carefully to strengthen the muscles of your core and back, like pilates, and consider asking a teacher or personal trainer how to work from the inside out with your muscles.
4. Lifting Your Groceries
Or your school bag, or that Amazon box filled with many, many Korean skin care products you ordered last night on a whim. Most of us are good about being super mindful of our bodies when lifting things that are heavy, like furniture, but it's easy to forget that the everyday objects also might be causing strain and overuse on your lower back muscles.
Whether it's groceries or a couch, always consider your tactics for lifting. Some helpful tips include leading with your hips when you change directions, bending with your knees, and keeping the weight of the object close to your body.
5. Slouching In Your Chair
Poor posture can actually change the anatomy of your spine by causing constriction of blood vessels and nerves, which can ultimately cause issues with muscles, discs, and joints.
A few tips for maintaining posture while sitting? Make sure your chair is at a height where your feet touch the floor, and your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your shoulders relaxed, not too far forward or back. Keep your core engaged as much as you can at all times(think drawing your belly button to your spine), even while you're typing or reading.
6. Wearing Old Shoes
I know you love those vintage heels, and you probably have a soft spot for that 10-year old pair of Nikes you refuse to throw away.
But seriously, it's time to say buh-bye to these bad boys. Shoes that have lost their support (or never had much of it at all to begin with) can really affect how you walk, and the poor alignment of a bad gait can travel all the way up your back.
7. Scrolling Through Instagram
Trust me, smartphones are doing no favors for your posture. CBS News reported on a study that found that bending your head at a 60-degree angle toward your phone is likely placing "60 pounds' worth of pressure" on your spine. Yikes.
Every movement counts, y'all. So strengthen those muscles, support yourself with good shoes, stop that slouching, and yes, put away that dang phone once in a while!