1. You're a coach potato.
watching your favourite shows can stir up back pain. "Leaving your
muscles untested and unstrengthened does no favours for your lower
back," says Dr Kaixuan Liu, founder and president of Atlantic Spine
Center, in New Jersey. "Plus, if your lower back is already acting up,
staying sedentary may prolong or worsen pain." Get up every half hour or
so if you're binge-watching a show on Netflix and incorporate exercises like the plank (hold 30 seconds or more for 2 to 3 sets) to strengthen your back and core.
2. You smoke.
"Nicotine cuts down on healthy blood flow all around our body, and that
includes to the vertebrae and spinal discs," says Dr. Liu. "That can
cause them to break down, causing inflammation and pain." A study published in Human Brain Mapping shows smoking makes you more likely to feel other back pain triggers as well. Quit smoking to reduce your risk.
3. You injure another body part.
Called "referred pain",
discomfort that radiates from one area and feels as if it's coming from
another area, may be felt in the lower back, says Dr. Liu. "A hip or
pelvis injury such as a muscle bruise or broken bone can cause referred
pain to the lower back." Appendicitis
and stomach problems may also create referred pain. A fever, numbness
or tingling or muscle weakness in your back or limbs calls for a medical
4. You're depressed.
A study published in PAIN shows a link between lower back pain and depression. The odds of having back pain were 1.6 times higher
for subjects with symptoms of depression and anxiety. "Stress can cause
enormous muscle tension in the lower back," says Dr. Liu. Meditation can help. A 2009 study
shows mindfulness meditation eases muscle-related pain. To try it
yourself, simply focus on your breath as you breathe in and out, being
in the moment, without allowing outside distractions to enter your mind.
5. You overdo exercise.
Too many repetitions or using heavy weights can trigger back pain and stiffness. "Knowing if you're doing too much requires attention to your back,
not just during your workouts, but in the hours after them," says David
Geier, MD, an orthopedic surgeon. Normal muscle soreness usually goes away the next day.
But lingering pain bending down, twisting or extending your back that
continues in the days after the workout should be evaluated by a medical
6. You have a urinary tract infection or kidney stones.
UTI's can cause bladder inflammation, which can cause abdominal pain that radiates to the back, says urologist Brian Norouzi. Kidney stones
can also cause back pain when they block drainage of the kidney, says
Dr. Norouzi. See your doctor at the first signs of a UTI: pain or
burning during urination and a feeling of urgency and need to urinate
7. You have an undiagnosed health problem.
Back pain can also be a sign of osteoporosis,
an abdominal aneurysm, uterine or ovarian cancer in women and even lung
cancer, says Dr. Liu. "We can't always identify the specific reason for
lower back pain, but advanced techniques to diagnose the cause — such
as x-rays, MRI or CAT scans or other tests — give us a leg up toward
getting our patients back to pain-free living. The first step should
always be to obtain a diagnosis."
8. You wear the wrong accessories.
Over time, a weight imbalance
from carrying a heavy shoulder bag could cause lower back discomfort,
says Dr. Geier. "To prevent it, alternate the shoulder you use to carry
the bag, or decrease its weight." Constrictive clothing such as Spanx
can also cause harm in a couple different ways, says Jeremy Smith, MD, a
spine surgeon with Hoag Orthopedic Institute in California. "They restrict the normal range of motion of the spine.
This combined with compression may inhibit the normal conditioning of
the stabilizing muscles, making the back more susceptible to strain and
injury." Prevent problems by buying Spanx in the correct size, not too