How kind are you to your back on a daily basis? There are lots of ways to strain your back—or make an existing injury far worse—including some you may be doing right now. Making some tweaks to your everyday activities can help keep pain at bay.
Between pushing the cart, all the walking, leaning, reaching and bending for products, and loading and unloading everything into your car, going to the supermarket can be surprisingly taxing on your body. You can lessen the impact by shopping with a friend or family member who can do most of the work, going to a market that will pack the groceries into your car for you, or taking advantage of services that allow you to order your groceries online and either have them delivered to your house or loaded into your car when you arrive to pick them up.
A long commute can be detrimental to your back because of all the sitting, and also because “both physical forces and your vehicle’s design team up against you, ” said Men’s Health. “Unlike the sensation you get while slumped over in an office chair, your body feels a lot of different forces in a car, from accelerations, side-to-side swaying, and vibrations,” Alan Hedge, Ph.D., C.P.E. professor of ergonomics at Cornell University, told them. “This vibration of the spine pushes on the discs between your vertebrae—the cushions that act as shock absorbers and allow spinal movement—which can cause mechanical damage to the disks. There is evidence that the combination of these factors, coupled with the design of the car seat itself, can increase the chance of back problems for some people.”
Adjusting the seat properly so you are sitting at the proper angle with your back flush against the seat back, using the lumbar support (if you have one), and stretching as often as possible can help. Get more tips here.
Walking the dog
A dog that pulls can create a dangerous situation for you, putting pressure on your shoulders, neck, and back and maybe causing you to fall. If training hasn’t helped enough, a gentle harness may do the trick.
Taking a shower
It might seem like washing up in the shower would be injury proof, but there are actually several ways you can end up injuring your back while you’re in there. Take a look at the entry. Is there a step up to get in the shower? This could be a hazard. A frameless entry might be in order—and, as a bonus, you’ll get a valuable update to your bathroom!
What’s the height of your showerhead? Are you having to bend down to rinse your hair? That pressure on your neck isn’t great; raising the showerhead can make a world of difference. Is the floor slippery? Slip-and-fall accidents in the shower can be extremely dangerous, not just to your back, but also causing broken bones and head injuries. Soap and shampoo on the shower floor can also add to the slippery nature. Adding a non-slip product to the floor can help.
Taking out the trash
Heavy bags can cause you to twist or contort your body, and if you hold them over one shoulder, they may cause pressure on one side, triggering pain. Sounds like a great excuse to relegate this task to someone else in the family!
Standing on a hard floor like tile, wood, or concrete can be a cause of lower back pain and fatigue. You can mitigate the damage by wearing good, supportive shoes and placing an anti-fatigue floor mat in front of the stove—and the sink, if you regularly stand for long periods of time doing dishes.
Working at a desk
Sitting at a desk all day can have a negative impact on your health; a sedentary lifestyle has been shown to increase the incidence of everything from diabetes to heart disease. It can also be detrimental to your back health.
“Did you know that sitting puts 40% more pressure on your spine than standing?” asks Prevention. If a standing desk isn’t a possibility, getting up to stretch and/or take a short walk throughout the day can help. They also recommend sitting at a 135-degree angle, which can “reduce compression of the discs in the spine.”
You’re doing crunches
You need strong abs to support your back muscles, but working them out could be making your back hurt more. That’s a fun Catch-22.
“We hear all the time how a strong core protects your back, which is true. But crunches don’t work the ab muscles that stabilize your back,” said Prevention. “In fact, they can contribute to pain.” Partial crunches may give you the workout you want without the aches.
You’re carrying a heavy load
According to the American Chiropractic Association, your purse should not exceed 10 percent of your body weight, and that’s with everything in it! A heavy bag puts pressure on your shoulder, and since all the weight is on one side, your posture can be thrown off, causing neck and back pain.
Pushing a lawnmower can tax your back. So can all the bending and jarring movements involved in edging and pulling weeds. If you don’t want to give up your gardening, heed some tips from the BBC, who recommend stretching first, using tools with long handles to limit the bending, and planting slow-growing shrubs, which are “easier to maintain than annuals and herbaceous perennials.”
If you find yourself with back pain that won’t go away or is worsening, it might be time to find a leading back doctor. Advances in minimally invasive treatments means treating chronic back pain is easier than ever. Between outpatient treatments and minimally invasive surgical procedures using small incisions, you can expect a quicker recovery time instead of a long hospital stay.