There are many physical risk factors which contribute to back problems:
- Heavy physical work
- Lifting and forceful movements
- Bending and twisting
- Whole-body vibration
- Static work postures
In addition to physical factors, there are also stress and psychological issues which also contribute to back pain. How you react and approach challenges in life reveals your emotional tendencies. Do you take things day by day, or do you worry disproportionately when challenges come your way?
Sensations alter our biochemistry. How people think and feel has a role in our general well-being, and that includes our backs. Researchers have found a link between depression and back pain; back pain leads to depression and sometimes depression leads to back pain. Many times the cycle can be self-perpetuating. If you have a tendency for any of the following, you could be putting your back at risk:
Behavior change is much easier said than done. But being aware of your negative behavior and catching yourself in the act might help you become aware of how you process life’s challenges. Next time you’re at a red light, see how you feel. If you find yourself feeling anxious or worried, take note of that. Understand the situations which elevate your stress, such as running late, business deadlines, or an overflowing inbox, and take steps to lower them.
It’s probably not news to you that people with jobs which require heavy physical labor, such as construction, are fairly susceptible to back pain, particularly lower back pain. It’s all that heavy lifting, twisting, and pounding. But there’s also lots of kneeling, squatting, and stooping.
Bus drivers and long-haul truckers have their share of both vibration and static positions, both of which have negative effects on the back over time. Repetitive motions at a production line may not be as intense as heavy construction jobs, but they can definitely result in back problems. Visualise soldering computer chips onto motherboards or stuffing DVDs into envelopes all day—it makes me tired just thinking about it. This is why more and more companies are electing to provide their workers with stretch breaks in order to reduce the effects that static positions and repetitive movements have on the back.
But it isn’t only the blue-collar pack. Office workers and medical professionals are also at risk. Think surgeons, who operate in static positions bent over patients; or computer technicians, who are at keyboards all day. We may not be able to or wish to change careers; there are other solutions which can help.
Repetitive stress takes its toll no matter how big or small the motion. From tapping away at a keyboard or laying bricks, the body will eventually require a break. This is why clever companies, including Netflix, have implemented exercise breaks. It increases productivity and reduces the incidence of repetitive stress.
Sports and Leisure
Ah, a day at the park playing football with the kids, an invigorating, fresh morning at the golf course with your mates, or a night out salsa dancing. Life is great! That is until one of these activities seizes up your back. All of these activities involve a number of physical risk factors—the pounding of running, the torsion to hit a golf ball, and rotating your hips to the best Latin tunes. We all know that being active is necessary for a healthy lifestyle. But preparing your body for your activity of choice with exercise will go a long way towards helping your back.
Professional athletes practice. A lot. Sure, they possess a lot of talent, but they also work very hard to get where they are, and they have to continue doing it to remain at the top of their game. They can get injured, but they’re also likely to recover much faster than the average person as they’re in good shape. You can profit from conditioning, preparation, and correct body mechanics, similarly. It will also help your golf swing and your salsa moves.
The message from all of this is, don’t fall become a weekend-warrior. Being senseless all week, then going all out for a huge game of football on a Sunday isn’t clever. Your body will soon feel it, and it will definitely let you know.
If you were looking for yet further evidence that you need to stop smoking, here it is. Researchers have found a link between smoking and lower back pain. Smoking results in the proteins in the disc to degenerate quicker. Smoking causes a decrease in the elasticity of your skin, and it has a similar effect on some of the tissues in your vertebral column. The final result is that the discs ages quicker.
If you’re overweight, the extra weight that you’re carrying around all day will put stress on your bones, including your spine. The hips and lower back carry the majority of your body’s weight. The healthier your weight, the better. However, even if you are a healthy weight, a lack of activity will hurt your back. You need to be active for a healthy lifestyle—for at least 30 minutes—each day of the week.
Exercise gets the blood pumping and the increases strength in your muscles. As the saying goes, just get up and do it. This doesn’t mean you need to run a marathon every day, just find something you enjoy which gets you moving, and do it as often as possible.
Lastly, you are what you eat. Your entire body needs good nutrition—this means your spine too. Something which nourishes your overall body will nourish your back. For instance, calcium, it’s vital for strong bones. You absorb it via food, but if you’re deficient, supplements can help. Either way you’ll need a vitamin D in order to assist your body in absorbing the calcium.