5 Bad Habits that Cause Back Pain

Millions of Americans suffer from back pain. Sometimes it's caused by a one-time injury. More often, back pain is a chronic condition caused by repeated irritation, injuries that don't recover properly, poor posture and body mechanics and simple wear and tear. But could fixing your bad back be as really be simple as breaking your bad habits? The answer is "yes." You can prevent and reverse damage to your back by cleaning up these five bad habits. 

1. Quit slouching. When your mother told you to stand up straight, she was giving good advice. Your head, shoulders, spine, pelvis, knees and ankles should stack on top of each other in a straight line. Avoid standing or sitting with your shoulders hunched forward, your head and neck jutting out in front, your low back swayed or your knees locked. 

Correct posture means:

  • Shoulders are back.
  • Head and neck are either in line with or slightly in front of shoulders.
  • Pelvis is tilted upward and tailbone is tucked under.
  • Feet stand hip-width apart
  • Knees are slightly bent.
  • When standing for a long time, one foot is placed in front of the other.
  • When sitting for a long time, the low back is supported with a pillow or roll.

2. Quit using your back. Back muscles, spinal discs, tendons and ligaments are small and fragile compared to leg and butt muscles. Yet many people lift, twist, turn and pivot using their backs. Using the right muscles (and proper body mechanics) for the job can prevent many backaches.

  • Get close to the object you're lifting or lowering.
  • Use your legs. Bend your knees, grab your load and lift straight up, using your thigh and gluteus muscles.
  • Don't twist or pivot while holding heavy objects.
  • Bend your knees when lowering heavy objects
  • Get help when something is too heavy.

3. Quit using your laptop. Hours spent hunched over a laptop put a lot of stress on your neck and upper back. Switch to an ergonomically correct workstation instead.

  • Use a monitor that keeps your eyes level with the screen.
  • Get a good office chair that lets you keep your feet on the floor with knees bent at 90-degrees.
  • Keep your back straight and add a cushion for lumbar support.

4. Quit smoking. Studies show cigarette smoking increases risks for developing herniated discs and low back pain.

Cigarettes contain nicotine and other toxins that:

  • Constrict blood vessels in the spine
  • Reduce circulation to the low back.
  • Block the body's ability to deliver bone-strengthening, nerve-protecting nutrients to the spine.
  • Reduce bone density, which leads to osteoporosis and other bone disorders.

5. Quit ignoring the basics. Obesity, poor muscle tone, lack of exercise, stress and poor diet are all connected to the health of our back. When we ask our bones to carry more than their fair share of body weight or depend on out-of-shape muscles to help us lift, move and bend, we're asking for trouble. 

Healthy backs are made from:

  • Strong, well-nourished muscles
  • Strong bones that carry and move a normal amount of weight.
  • Stress management, which keeps inflammation and joint damage at bay
  • Good nutrition to keep all working parts in good condition.
  • Regular exercise that maximizes circulation and joint lubrication.

Replace bad habits with good ones and pretty soon you'll replace your "bad back" with a strong, healthy one.


American Chiropractic Association


American Academy of Family Physicians

Low Back Pain

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