Figuring out why your back hurts isn't difficult when you've obviously been injured in an accident or suffer from a known spinal condition. But what about those mysterious aches and pains you simply cannot account for? Here are some common (but surprising) causes of annoying back pain -- along with some smart tactics for countering them.
Mobile Device Misery
Believe it or not, your mobile device could be wreaking mayhem on your back. Smart phones, tablets and laptops are an integral part of modern communications, shopping and leisure time; so integral, in fact, that these beloved electronics can literally become a pain. That's because most users don't hold the device level with their eyes. Instead, they lean down to look at it, assuming a posture chiropractors know all too well as the "head forward" posture. Neck pain is the most obvious result of forcing your musculature to support your skull in this awkward position, but impinged nerves and strained muscles can also direct pain signals down the spinal column and into your back. Be careful about your head position when using a mobile device, and get into the habit of taking breaks and straightening your posture from time to time.
Smoking and Suffering
Who would have thought that smoking could make a contribution to back pain? Amazingly enough, it does. Habitual smoking is known to affect circulation, including the flow of blood required for healthy vertebral discs. The resulting lack of nutrients and oxygen can cause the discs to age and deteriorate prematurely. Disc deterioration can take the form of flattening, which stresses the facet joints connecting vertebrae to each other, or herniation, which allows the discs to push painfully against spinal nerve roots. Smokers also appear to have a heightened sensitivity to chronic pain. In other words, smoking is a fast track to a painful back.
There's only one way to eliminate this potential cause of back pain. Find a way to quit smoking, and enjoy not only a more comfortable spine but also the innumerable other health benefits a smoke-free lifestyle helps to provide. If you've already sustained disc damage, ask your local pain management doctors about spinal decompression and other possible solutions.
Frequent Flying, Frequent Back Pain
If you're a frequent flyer, your back may not appreciate your high-altitude lifestyle. There are several aspects of flying that can cause or aggravate back problems. Chief among them, perhaps, is the sheer burden of loading, unloading and carrying heavy luggage. If you use a back pack, take it off whenever you're not actually getting one from place in the airport to another. Load the backpack carefully, with heavy items on the bottom and an even distribution of weight.
Once you're safely onboard, life in an airplane cabin presents its own set of back pain triggers. For instance, it's easy to grow dehydrated in the ultra-dry air of a passenger airliner, and this condition can make spinal disc problems worse. Order water from your beverage service instead of caffeinated drinks that have a diuretic effect on the body. Get up and stretch whenever it's permitted to give your spine a break from that uncomfortable airplane seat.
Not Enough (or Too Much) Exercise
Regular exercise is great for strengthening the body, including the core muscles that support the spinal column. Sitting all day, in particular, allows these muscles to become flabby and prone to injury. So if you're prone to frequent backaches, it might be time to ask your pain management doctors about the benefits of a customized exercise program. The stronger and more flexible your supporting muscles become, the less likely they'll be to experience strains, tears and other painful soft tissue injuries.
You might assume, then, that more exercise is automatically better for your back pain issues -- but that isn't necessarily the case. Your back can also be stressed and strained by too much strenuous athletic activity. For instance, sports that tend to hyper-extend the back, such as swimming, are associated with a painful lumbar condition called spondylolysis. People actively suffering from the symptoms of this condition are advised to reduce their activity levels until the pain subsides.
Back pain can come at you from some surprising directions, but once you're aware of potential causes you can exercise the appropriate vigilance and countermeasures to stop it in its tracks. Best of luck to you in your quest for a more comfortable back!