Avoid these 4 causes of back pain


Back pain is one of the most common causes of pain among adults. While there are treatment options for existing back pain, it’s no surprise our experts say the best treatment is prevention and awareness.

But if you are already suffering – the sooner you address the problem, the better.
Back pain can interfere with so many aspects of your quality of life, including work, recreation, relaxation – even your overall mental state.
We turned to four doctors from the Ohio State Comprehensive Spine Center to better understand the most common causes of back pain – and how to, hopefully, fix the issue before it starts.

4 back pain causes:

1. Poor posture

All our experts agree poor posture can be one of, if not the, leading causes of back pain.

Therefore, everyone should do their best to practice proper posture and body mechanics, says Tom Reynolds, MD, in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

How to practice proper posture?

Proper posture at your desk: Sitting up straight in a chair helps. Dr. Reynolds recommends using a footrest or something underneath your feet when sitting in a chair to elevate your knees in line with your hips. This will help flatten out the lower back and allow you to sit more comfortably.

Proper posture while driving: When driving, you should have the seat upright with the right knee bent while using the right foot on the gas. The left foot (if not shifting gears) should be at the base of the left seat with the knee up in the air and not stretched out toward the front of the car. Also, your head should be against it the headrest and your shoulders should touch the seat.

Proper lifting: Proper lifting is done with a straight back and a squat, or a kneel, keeping the back straight and vertical throughout lifting. The key is not bending at the waist to pick up something.

Dr. Reynolds says back pain prevention may be as simple as taking short breaks from sitting at least once every hour.

2. Obesity and physical inactivity

Too much weight can stress the back and cause pain. Andrew Grossbach, MD, in the Department of Neurological Surgery, says being overweight, combined with physical inactivity, can lead to deconditioned core muscles and increased stress on the low back.

Core exercises and low-impact workouts, such as walking, are the best options for preventing or addressing low back pain, says Dr. Grossbach. By strengthening core muscles, you help ease the strain on your back.

Dr. Grossbach says don’t be afraid to start small – every little bit helps!

“Start walking short distances several times a day and gradually increase how far you walk,” he says.

3. Pregnancy

Pregnancy brings about many changes to a woman’s body, including joint laxity – loosening of the ligaments – during the second trimester. This joint laxity can lead to pain in the very low back, also called sacroiliac joint pain.

Steven Severyn, MD, section director of Acute and Chronic Pain at Outpatient Care East, says the best prevention is regular exercise, attention to weight gain and practicing proper lifting mechanics.

4. Smoking

So what does smoking have to do with back pain? Your body may not be able to get enough nutrients to the discs in your back if you smoke. 

Francis Farhadi, MD, PhD, with the Department of Neurological Surgery, says smoking can worsen the natural breakdown of your body as you age. 

“As people age, discs in their back begin to degenerate. This eventually leads to degenerative disc disease, which isn’t really a disease, but part of the normal changes of aging that can result in back pain,” explains Dr. Farhadi.

He says core and back exercises, smoking cessation and reducing obesity all help slow down the disc degeneration. 

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