Ouch! These Unhealthy Habits Might Be Causing Back Pain

The American Chiropractic reports that back pain is the main reason people miss workdays, with over 80% of Americans experiencing it at some point. Not all back pain requires medication; some cases might require you to change your sitting position, consume more vitamins, or empty your backpack. These bad habits might be contributing to your back pain.

Your Bag Is Too Heavy

Both purses and backpacks can harm your back if they’re too heavy. Houston Neurosurgery and Spine explains that heavy bags skew your natural walk. The lack of proper weight distribution pressures your spine.

A woman walks through a city while carrying a purse.

When people prop bags on one shoulder, such as a purse, the pain can be especially bad. Try alternating shoulders and limiting the weight in your bags.

You Don’t Exercise Regularly

Although many people do not want to exercise with back pain, research shows that it can help. Exercise releases pain-relieving endorphins and stretches tense muscles.

A woman practices crossfit at the gym.

In 2004, scientists examined several studies on exercise and back pain. In most studies, exercise soothed back pain by 10% to 50%. Regular exercise might also prevent back pain.

You Have Poor Posture While Sitting

If you hunch your back or look downward while sitting, you’re likely harming your back. This muscle strain can irritate your spine and shoulders.

A diagram shows the difference between incorrect and correct sitting posture.
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shirin msv/Pinterest

Orthopedic Atlanta recommends that you sit up straight with the help of a pillow for your lower back. Also, place your monitor at eye level so that you don’t have to look down.

You Wear The Wrong Shoes

Your shoes might be causing lower back pain. According to Kauvery Hospital, shoes usually absorb the shock on the heel. When shoes fail to do this, it sends that shock through your legs, pelvis, and lower back, creating pain.

A woman wears tall heels.
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Christian Vierig/Getty Images

Heels are more likely to hurt your back, but so are old shoes and shoes with little support. If you need better shoes for your back, talk to a podiatrist.

You’re Not Getting Enough Vitamin D

People with a vitamin D deficiency have a greater chance of feeling pain in their lower back, according to a 2005 study in The BMJ. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which strengthens your bones.

Eggs and vitamin D tablets lie on a table.
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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Without this bone strength, you might experience joint pain. Staying in the sun for 15 minutes gives you vitamin D, along with eating fish, dairy, eggs, and cheese.

You’re Sleeping In The Wrong Position

Some sleeping positions can alleviate back pain. However, sleeping on your stomach might harm your back, according to Keck Medicine of the University of Southern California.

A diagram shows how incorrect sleeping positions harm a woman's back.
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Sleeping on your stomach turns your neck, which results in upper back pain. If your hip is in an odd position, that could also disturb your spine.

You Bend, Twist, Or Strain Your Spine

Many people get lower back pain after bending over or turning their spine too rapidly. This pain either results from muscle exertion, a slipped disc, or former back issues.

A woman experiences back pain while leaning down to pick up books.
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BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, you should bend at the knees and hips. This will move the strain away from the back.

You Sit For Long Periods Of Time

People who sit for long periods (even a few hours) are more likely to get back pain. According to the Health Department of the University of California, Los Angeles, this results from extra strain on the neck, arms, legs, and spine.

A businessman appears stressed while working at his desk.
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Researchers from Columbia University recommend standing from your desk every 30 minutes. Stretch, grab water, or walk around your office.

You Sleep On An Outdated Mattress

You can get back pain from an old, sagging mattress. Most people need to replace their mattress every six to eight years, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

A man carries a mattress out of a store.
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If you wake up with an aching back, then you likely have an outdated mattress. Old mattresses tend to dent or swallow you up.

You Lift Objects Incorrectly

If you lift heavy objects incorrectly, you might strain your back muscles or even slip a disc. To start, you should avoid lifting things that are too heavy for one person.

An art piece portrays a delivery man carrying a box.

Second, focus on your lifting posture. WebMD recommends keeping your back straight and bending at the knees. Tighten your stomach, and use your thigh muscles to lift.

You Have A Poor Diet

Research has connected a poor diet to worse back pain. According to 2020 research in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that people who eat few vegetables tended to have more back pain.

A man digs into a double cheeseburger.
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The Center for Spine & Orthopedics says that B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin D can prevent back pain. Eat dark leafy greens, whole grains, fatty fish, and fresh fruits for these vitamins.

You’re Not Caring About Your Weight

According to a 2016 study in the scientific journal Medicine, people are more likely to suffer from back pain if they are overweight or obese. Orthopedic surgeon Tae M. Shin explains that this happens because of a shifted center of gravity.

A woman stands on a scale.
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i yunmai/Unsplash

“Being overweight, especially in the mid-section, shifts your entire center of gravity forward and puts additional strain on your back muscles,” Shin told Everyday Health. Maintain a healthy weight to avoid this pain.

You’re Not Supporting Your Legs While Lying Down

If you get back pain from lying on your back, you’re not alone. This position places a lot of weight on your back.

An illustration shows people people sleep with a pillow under or in between their knees to help their back.
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ISMQ VN/Pinterest

To displace some of this pressure, place a pillow under your knees. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this supports the spine’s natural curve, which can help the body relax.

You Don’t Stretch

Stretching occasionally can do wonders for back pain. Yoga is ideal, as it tackles both the muscles and stress. During a 2011 study, participants felt less pain after taking a weekly yoga class.

A woman does a yoga stretch on her mat.
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Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Stretching soothes muscle tension around the spine and improves mobility. Even if you don’t have persistent back pain, a few morning stretches will boost muscle health.

You’re Riding The Wrong Bike

Have you ever experienced back pain after riding a bike? If so, your bike might be the incorrect fit, explains British Cycling.

A man rides a bike on a road overlooking the ocean.
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An awkwardly positioned bike seat can limit the amount of flexibility for your hips, arms, and legs, forcing your back to use all of its strength. Talk to your local bike shop to adjust your bike position.

You Have Never Tried To Fix Chronic Stress

In 2021, a study in Scientific Reports reported that chronic stress can influence back pain, especially lower back pain. Stress tenses the muscles and worsens sleep, which can create back pain over time.

A stressed man presses his hand to his forehead.

Robert N. Jamison, an associate professor at the Departments of Anesthesia and Psychiatry in Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says that stress and back pain are a feedback loop. Back pain causes more stress, which in turn creates more pain. If you have persistent lower back pain, try tackling stress.

You’re Not Working Your Core Muscles

While working out, don’t ignore your core muscles, the ones in your stomach and legs. In 2019, researchers reported that people who exercise their “lower limb muscles” tend to have less back pain.

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Physical therapist Patti Mariano Kopasakis explains that core workouts can aid the lower back. They strengthen muscles on your sides and even those around your spine.

You Eat Too Much Sugar

While overall diet might worsen back pain, sugar is one of the worst culprits. Research has linked high consumption of sugar to greater back pain, likely due to weight gain and insulin disturbance.

A woman bits into a donut.
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In 2019, scientists from the University of Sydney discovered that diabetics have a 35% higher chance of experiencing lower back pain.

You Haven’t Quit Yet

In 2014, researchers from Northwestern University noticed something about smokers: many of them had chronic back pain. Smoke triggers a part of the brain that lowers a person’s resilience to back pain.

A no smoking sign is seen.
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Robert Alexander/Getty Images

According to the research, the only way to assuage this persistent back pain is to quit tobacco. Add that to the long list of health ailments connected with smoking.

You’re Not Eating Enough Calcium

Have you ever heard about kids needing calcium for strong bones? This is also true for adults, says Dr. John Spallino of the Laser Spine Institute. Calcium deficiency weakens your bones, which can hinder your spine.

A woman buys two gallons of milk from the grocery store.
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Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Since calcium levels naturally decrease with age, you need to make sure that you’re eating enough. Dairy products, soy, green leafy vegetables, and beans can provide this nutrient.