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March 2022

4 Sneaky Causes of Back Pain

Ongoing achiness or sudden and sharp, back pain is a common complaint. Injuries, heavy lifting, and getting older are things that likely come to mind when wondering, “What happened?” But there are many lesser known causes to be aware of—and ways to avert them. Here are a few you may not have heard of yet:

1. Working from home

The dining room table and couch just can’t match an office desk and ergonomic chair. If you don’t have the space to set up correctly, long hours on the computer can wreak havoc on your back (and neck and hands). Do what you can to replicate a back-healthy workspace in your home. And stick with good habits like sitting straight, getting up for breaks, and doing exercises that stretch and strengthen the back.

2. Heavy bags

It’s not just a problem for youth. Adults face painful consequences from overstuffing bags, too. Backpacks can be a better choice than shoulder bags and briefcases when worn correctly. (They are intended to distribute weight across the back.) But you need to follow the advice you’d give kids: Wear both straps. Only pack what you truly need for the given trip. Place heavier items at the bottom, toward the center.

3. Sleep troubles

Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. Ongoing disruptions are linked to pain in general. (Share any ongoing sleep problems with your healthcare provider.) Do what you can to get back-friendly rest: Make sure your mattress is supportive and not too soft. You can put a ½-inch thick piece of plywood underneath if needed. Try to lay on your side, knees bent. Place a pillow between them if it makes you more comfortable.

4. Inadequate vitamin D

This nutrient supports strong bones and well-functioning nerves and muscles. Over time, you can have health problems if you don’t get enough. (And that’s more likely for older adults.) If you have muscles spasms or chronic pain, talk with your provider about your risk for vitamin D deficiency and whether you should have your vitamin D level tested. Natural food sources, like salmon and tuna, can help replenish vitamin D. So can fortified cereal, yogurt, and other products.

Back pain has many causes, including other medical problems. Talk with your provider, who can help you determine and address yours.

 

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley, MSN, BSN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2021
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