When it comes to managing back pain, sweating the small stuff can make a pretty big difference. For example, though you might not think about it much while you’re doing it, doing something as simple as sitting in the wrong position at your desk can bring on back pain that keeps you up all night. Recurring episodes of minor back pain are often related to these kinds of behavioral issues that patients are often unaware of. It may take some time and attention to catch yourself making these common mistakes that cause back pain, but once you notice you’ll wonder how you managed to make these mistakes for so long!
1. Lift with Care
When lifting an object, always be sure to lift from the knees! Crouch or squat when you are reaching for the object instead of bending at a ninety-degree angle. Always rise slowly and gradually, never in a sudden jerking motion. This isn’t just true for heavy loads—we’ve seen patients who wound up with intense pain just from bending over to load the dishwasher. When you do have to carry something heavy, lift with a partner (if it’s one big object) or make multiple trips (if it’s something you can split up).
2. Get Up Gently
Whether you’re getting out of bed in the morning or you’ve been lying on the couch, to rise from a reclined position roll to your side, then push yourself up using your arms. Trying to sit up from being fully reclined can place excessive strain on your back and neck muscles. Twisting sideways without using your arms for support is asking for trouble, especially if you have degenerative discs.
3. Sleep Safely
If you’re a stomach sleeper, now’s the time to break the habit. Sleeping facedown doesn’t actually mean your face is planted straight in the pillow—instead, it’s turned to one side. That means you’re spending hours with your head and neck twisted. You think you’re resting, but you’re actually putting considerable strain on the muscles around your cervical spine. The best sleep position for back health? Lying on your back with supports (either pillows or rolled towels) beneath your knees, lower back, and neck. This helps your spine comfortably maintain its natural curvature through the night.
4. Put Up Your Feet
If you’re sitting—at work or at home—keeping your knees slightly elevated reduces pressure on your back. When you are sitting at your work desk or at the table, try to choose chairs that you can adjust so that your knees are just slightly higher than your lap. If you can’t move your chair, use a footstool, ottoman, or box to get some elevation.
5. Keep Moving
If you’re standing—whether you’re waiting in line at the bank or you’re the bank teller standing at the till—your back is supporting your weight. Improper posture or unbalanced weight (like if you’re leaning to one side) puts excess pressure on your back. When you’re standing for long periods, keep one foot placed slightly ahead of the other. This is an easier position for your hips and back, and can decrease the tension that can build in your muscles from standing for long periods of time. Regularly changing position, and taking breaks to walk around, helps to keep your muscles looser and more relaxed.
Little habits like these might not seem like much, but if you’re suffering from back pain, you may be surprised how much relief minor changes can bring. If you are experiencing chronic back pain and are tired of waiting to get a diagnosis or a referral, jump the queue! Call the Spine Institute Northwest at 888-712-0318 to learn how we’ve helped Canadian patients get back their lives.