Have you ever been told off for slouching by an elder? Have you been told, “This might seem comfortable now but later you will have back problems?” They know what they are talking about and heed to it the next time when you are told. Having a sustained bad posture can eventually lead to back pain.
Backaches plague a large section of the people and among the aged, in most cases, it is the result of cultivating long-time bad habits, which they never thought much of in their youth, that now led to a major problem.
Let me list down some of the most common every-day habits, which are bad for your back. And you tick off the ones you are guilty of doing.
1. Skipping that glass of milk
I grew up in a household where I saw my mother and sister regularly lock horns over a glass of milk. Nothing could make my sister drink it. I believe the scenario is not too different in most households. Milk contains calcium and vitamin D, which are magic potions for your bones. Calcium is essentially the building block of the bone, and it helps maintain bone-strength throughout your lifetime. And vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium.
2. Sedentary lifestyle/lack of exercise
Prolonged inactivity can make your back stiff, weak, and deconditioned. At least 30 minutes of moderate exercising can go a long way in keeping back pains at bay. Exercising regularly strengthens the muscles, which support the spine, reduces pressure from spinal discs, improves mobility and facilitates circulation for better distribution of nutrients through the body.
3. Being overweight/obesity
Being overweight or obese can contribute to lower back pain. The back has a normal curve, which is most effective in a neutral position. When a person is obese, any added weight in the midsection shifts the pelvis forward and causes the spine to curve excessively inward. This causes strain and back pain.
4. Incorrect posture
I agree that sitting sprawled on the sofa or slouching on the chair seems comfortable, but they are not essentially healthy. Poor posture while standing or sitting can cause your back, core, and abdominal muscles to become strained and painful, reducing blood supply, and slowly developing stiffness and weakness in the trunk and lower back. While sitting or standing straight may not be comfortable in the beginning, it does get easier with practice.
If you have just learnt to enjoy the whiff of tobacco, it is best you quit smoking immediately. According to a study, smoking interferes with the brain circuit associated with pain, making smokers more prone to chronic back pain. The study, conducted on a sample group, also noted a marked decline in back pain among smokers who quit.
6. Your habit of over-packing
While there is much discussion about the disadvantages of children carrying heavy school bags, there seems to be little attention being paid to adults carrying heavy backpacks. Given that carrying laptops has become common, many people nowadays have swapped their side-bags and satchels with backpacks. Carrying around heavy backpacks also strains the muscle and bones in the back that causes back pain.
7. Love high-heels?
Incorrect footwear may provide insufficient support, compress the feet, and fail to complement the natural arch of the feet causing leg pain, back pain, lower back pain and sciatica over the years. It can also undo the shock-absorbing capacity of the feet, triggering intense pain in the hips and lower back, and in rare cases a slipped disc or fractured hip bone. For instance, high heels shift your weight forward onto the balls of the feet that adds pressure to the bones and joints. They restrict the range of motion in your foot and can lead to joint pain in both your legs and back.
Let’s do it right
It is not so much about quitting a habit as much it is about doing it right. For instance, calcium can keep osteoporosis at bay, but merely having calcium-rich food or calcium supplements cannot help. There are various foods, such as nicotine or caffeine, which can hamper calcium absorption. Similarly, a prolonged lack of exposure to sunlight can reduce the production of Vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption.
Then again you might say that you are too busy to exercise. In that case, you can make a few lifestyle changes, which can help your bone and muscle health. For instance, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or the escalator, do small stretch exercises while studying or brainstorming.
When it comes to carrying bags, ensure that the weight is evenly distributed on both your shoulders, and broader straps are more comfortable. Besides, pack mindfully and not obsessively. While women’s bags have been the source of jokes for a long time, carrying around unnecessary items only adds to the weight, which will eventually cause back pain.
Now to the touchy bit—the footwear. No, I am not asking you to wear trainers with your evening dress, but I will ask you to think before buying footwear. You should neither opt for sky-high heels nor go for absolute flats, which do nothing to support your natural arch. Rather, you can opt for wedges, stacked heels or even platforms. These heels put less pressure on your calves and back.
Tip: Ask yourself these questions as well —
Is my mattress right? A hard mattress or a too-soft mattress will affect your spine leading to back pain.
Is my office chair comfortable? Most offices do not go for an indoor infrastructural haul very quickly. So it is not uncommon for employees to sit in chairs not ergonomically built.
Are you getting enough sleep? Believe me a proper restful 7 to 8-hour sleep can go a long way in getting rid of that nagging pain in the back. Tired and strained muscles are a major source of back pain.
Be kind to yourself. The human body is born to adapt and repair itself. While young, the natural agility of the body can help it to tide over various kinds of problems. But with age, the body’s ability to adapt and repair reduces and hence what you choose to do today to your body has a huge impact on your body tomorrow.