Lower back pain is a common phenomenon in India. About 60% of the population has suffered from low back pain at least once in their lives. It is also the leading cause of absenteeism at workplace. Be it a senior adult, a construction worker or an office-goer, anyone can be affected by different degrees of low back pain. If not taken care of at the beginning, it can increase to a point of hampering daily activities and lower your quality of life.
A lot of factors, including your daily habits or routine can cause lower back pain. Here are some common factors that you may be ignoring but are making your lower back pain worse and more difficult to manage as time passes.
1. Sitting for long periods of time – Sitting for long hours is a requirement for a lot of people, especially for those having a desk job or as assembly line workers in a factory. This sedentary lifestyle can hamper your spine health.
A study** conducted among 400 technology professionals revealed that 50% of them reported low back pain. Similarly, another study* conducted among 196 electronic industry workers revealed that 52.5% suffered from low back pain.
So, what really happens to the back when you sit for a long period of time? Sitting for more than 7 hours a day can cause soreness & stiffness of the lower back. It also reduces the mobility of the lower spine and leads to weakened lower back muscles. Also, when you have been sitting for a long time, your hip muscles are in a shortened position. This makes the glutes, an important support of your spine, weaker and cause your hamstrings to overwork. This results in a condition called the Anterior Pelvic Tilt (APT) – a tilt of the pelvis where the abdominal muscles become weak and cause the pelvis to tilt further making the sitter appear to have a bigger stomach than they really do.
What can you do to avoid sitting-related low back pain?
Stand and work at a table or high counter for some time.
Take a 3-minute break every 30 minutes. If you are too busy to remind yourself to do that, set a reminder on your phone.
If you drive home, park your car a little further than you usually would to get in some steps.
Take a short walk after lunch.
2. Bad posture – “Sit straight”. “Stand up straight”. We’ve all heard these words before but haven’t stopped to ask why. Today, postural stress is one of the most common causes for back pain among people. Often, we slouch when we sit in the office chair or on the couch, hunch over the sink to wash dishes or lift heavy things by bending our back. In all these activities, our posture comes into play and bad posture leads to low back pain. It is important to maintain proper posture while sitting, standing or lying down as this keeps the spinal alignment in the correct position. Not checking your posture can not only lead to back pain but also more serious conditions like osteoarthritis. It also restricts blood flow to your core and abdominal muscles thus making them weak and increasing stiffness around your trunk and lower back.
How can you ensure that you maintain the right posture all day?
While sitting, place a pillow against your lower back to support the natural curvature of the spine.
When walking, land on your heel and then gently roll forward to push the front of your foot.
Sit in the 90-90-90 position. Keep your elbows bent at a 90 degree angle, your hips at a 90 degree angle and your knees at a 90 degree angle with your feet flat on the floor.
3. Improper form while lifting things – Lifting heavy objects or lifting objects the wrong way can cause sprains and strains to the lower back. Studies have shown that low back pain is the most common occupational health risk caused due to manual weight lifting. A ***study on female brick workers revealed that 40% of them suffered from low back pain due to lifting objects the improper way. Why does improper form cause low back pain? Mostly, people bend from their back. This puts a lot of pressure on the spinal disks. This also causes muscles and ligaments to stretch more than usual.
To avoid this, here are some tips and techniques you can adopt every time you lift heavy objects. Don’t bend your waist. Adopt the “hip hinge” technique while bending, i.e., bend from the hips in a squatting position.
Tighten your abdominal muscles before lifting anything.
Stand close to the object you are going to lift. Hold the object close to your body when you lift it.
If you are changing position, use your feet to do so. Do not twist your back.
4. Not sleeping right – Sleeping sets the body’s reset mechanism. It helps your spinal discs to rest and reabsorb fluid. Not sleeping enough doesn’t allow your body this opportunity to release tension thus keeping the pain as is. Apart from this, your mattress and your sleeping position can also lead to low back pain. A mattress that’s too soft will cause you to sink in it thus causing bad posture. A mattress that’s too firm might cause misalignment as it doesn’t support your neck and lower back like it needs to.
Therefore, a mattress that’s not too firm and not too soft should be your perfect pick.
5. Wearing the wrong shoes – Wrong footwear is one of the major culprits for low back pain. Flat shoes do not support your feet. The lack of padding and arch cause the ligaments in your feet to overstretch thus leading to back pain. High heels too are an extremely common cause of low back pain. Heels taller than an inch cause pressure on the ball of the feet and pressure the joints. Wearing high heels also push your chest and pelvis forward which hampers your posture and leads to back pain.
So, what footwear should you pick to avoid back pain?
Wear heels less often. If you wish to, opt for a slightly lower heel.
Instead of pointy heels, opt for wedges or block heels which help balance and stabilise your foot.
Don’t wear flip flops / flat shoes to walk long distances.
Ensure that your shoes have a cushioned sole to support the arch of your foot.
If you’re suffering from low back pain, it is crucial you keep the above-mentioned risk factors in mind. Speak to your physician about the severity of your symptoms. Also, applying an Ayurvedic oil like Zandu Ortho Vedic Oil will ensure effective and long-lasting relief from your symptoms of pain and stiffness in your lower back.