Why Does My Back Hurt? The Low-Down on Lower Back Pain

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Causes of Lower Back Pain:

Lower back strains can happen suddenly or over time because of specific movements. Sprains and strains might not sound extremely serious but can cause severe pain for short amounts of time. The most common reason for these strains is overstretching which leads to ligaments and muscle tears.

Overstretching can happen when:

  • Lifting heavy objects

  • Twisting spine while lifting

  • Having poor posture

  • Making sudden movements that stress the back

  • Sustaining a sports injury (twisting, contact sports with heavy impact)

  • Carrying too much upper body weight

The spine supports all of your upper body weight. It is made up of 30 small bones called “vertebrae” that are stacked on one another. In between the vertebrae are spongy pieces of cartilage called “discs.” The discs serve as shock absorbers so the vertebrae don’t grind against each other, and over the years, these discs gradually wear away, tear, or become injured.

Preventing Damage:

Stand smart:

  • Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart and slightly bend your knees. Your weight should primarily be on the balls of your feet. Stand tall with your shoulders back and tuck your stomach in. Keep your head level -your earlobes should be in line with your shoulders. If you’re standing for a long period of time, shift your weight from your toes to your heels, or one foot to the other.

Sit smart:

  • Sit up with your back straight and your shoulders back. Your butt should touch the back of the chair. Distribute your body weight evenly between both hips. Bend your knees at a right angle. Avoid crossing your legs or staying in the same position for more than 30 minutes.

Lift smart:

  • Start with a wide base of support. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly in front of the other. Squat down, bending at your knees and hips only. Keep your back straight, chest out and shoulders back while you slowly lift by straightening out your hips and knees. Hold the object as close to your body as possible and when you need to set it down, just squat with your knees and hips only.

Keeping Your Back Healthy & Strong

  • Maintain a healthy weight as recommended by your doctor
  • Build muscle and flexibility
  • Exercise to strengthen your core

If you’re in back pain, don’t lie down. Instead, work your back, stomach and legs to strengthen them because they support your spine. The more you work them, the more relief your back will feel. Always consult your doctor before engaging in physical exercise. WebMD has a great list of exercises for relieving back pain including:

  1. Partial crunches - Lie on your back and bend your knees. Tighten your stomach muscles and raise your shoulders off the floor. It is important to keep feet, tailbone and lower back on the floor at all times. Breathe out, hold for a second and then slowly lower back down until your back is flat on the ground again. Repeat.
  2. Hamstring stretches - Lie on your back and bend one knee. Use towel to wrap around the foot of the extended leg. Pull back on the towel and hold for 15-30 seconds. You should feel a gentle stretch down the back of your leg. Repeat this on both legs.
  3. Wall sits - Stand 10-12 inches from the wall. Lean back until your back is flat on the wall and slide down until your knees are slightly bent. Make sure your lower back is pressed against the wall. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat.
  4. Bridging - Lie on your back and bend your knees so your heels are on the floor. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips off the ground. Your shoulders, hips and knees should make a straight line. Keep your abdominals tight and avoid overarching your lower back. Hold for 10 seconds and slowly lower your hips back onto the floor. Repeat.
  5. Aerobic exercise - Exercises like walking, biking and swimming strengthen your lungs and heart and also help you lose weight. This leads to reduced back pain. Swimming works best when in back pain because the water takes the weight and supports your body. Avoid swimming strokes that involve twisting your body.

Lower back aches can be a hassle to deal with. If you keep these things in mind and stay active, it could relieve discomfort and have you back on track, pain-free in no time.


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