From Bras to Lifting: 10 Back Pain Truths & Myths Explained

Around 31 million people in the U.S. are experiencing lower back pain at any given time. Strangely, most cases of back pain are not caused by any underlying condition. So, what exactly is causing all those aches and pains? We break down some common back pain truths and myths.

1. Bras

Many women believe that bras can cause back pain. This is a myth. Wearing a poorly fitting bra does not cause back pain. Women who have very large breasts, or a condition called breast hypertrophy, sometimes suffer from back issues, but the average woman will not. Women who have large breasts can begin doing several different exercises to strengthen core, back and shoulder muscles to prevent or alleviate this pain. These exercises can be good for anyone who wants to alleviate back pain. Another myth is that bras will improve posture. This is also not true. Bras are worn for cosmetic reasons and don’t do anything to help with posture.

2. Heavy Purses

Lots of people want to be prepared for anything that could happen during the day. Many women tend to load up their purses with everything they might need. From makeup to books and candy to water bottles, purses can become extremely heavy. The act of placing a purse on one shoulder changes your posture, making you scrunch-up one shoulder and hurting your back. Lighten your purse or start carrying it in your hands, not on your shoulder, to prevent back and neck pain.

3. Intense Exercise

Everyone wants to be healthy and in shape, and the best way to do that is by exercising. However, it’s important to know your limits when it comes to your workout. Attempting to do an intense workout without prior training, doing an exercise that is too demanding on your body or pushing yourself too far can all lead to back injuries. These injuries can cause a lot of pain and even require medical attention. Start slow and get to know your body and don’t be afraid to say “no” if you’re asked to do a workout that you’re not comfortable with.

4. Breastfeeding Positions

Many new moms chose to breastfeed their babies, but incorrect posture can cause severe back pain and make breastfeeding uncomfortable for you and your baby. Finding a comfortable position is an important component to mom and baby bonding. It’s important to remember to bring the baby to you, not the other way around. Hunching over is bad posture and causes back pain. Products such as a nursing pillow can help bring the baby closer to you and removes the incentive to hunch closer to your baby.

5. High Heels

It has been proven that high heels cause back pain. One in 10 women wears high heels at least three times a week. The definition of high heels is any shoe with a heel of two inches or higher. When you wear heels, your body tries to overcompensate for leaning forward in the shoes. You end up leaning backward and overarching your back, creating tension in your lower back. Changing your spine’s position can create a condition called sciatica, where the nerves in your back trigger pain and numbness that can travel down into your feet. Wearing heels often can even lead to a shortening of your back muscles, making it hard for them to relax and go back into place. Wearing shoes with an inch and a half heel or less, using insoles, alternating which days you wear heels and flats and stretching can all help keep the back pain minimal.

6. Screen Time

Nowadays, everyone spends time on a computer. A large number of people spend their entire work day in front of a computer. Hunching over your desktop, laptop or tablet can cause major back pain. There are many ways to adjust your posture, but they take active steps to achieve. Try to make sure that your head and neck are in line with your shoulders to avoid hunching. Your monitor should be about an arm’s length away and your eye level should be two to three inches below the top of your monitor.  It’s also recommended that you stand up once an hour to reduce pressure on your back and improve circulation. Even if you just do a little stretching, taking breaks can help reduce stress put on your back.

7. Driving

Many people have long commutes for work, travel long distances to see family or go on vacation. Sitting in the car for long periods of time can cause back pain. There are several important things you can do to keep back pain at bay if you have a long car ride ahead of you. First, it’s important to get comfortable in whatever car you’re in. Adjust the seat until there are no signs of possible irritations. A rolled up towel or a pillow can provide extra lower back support. Make sure to sit flat on the seat. Wallets and cellphones in back pockets can throw off your spine. Reaching for the steering wheel can also put stress on your back. While you shouldn’t sit too close to the steering wheel, make sure that you can still reach it and the pedals freely.

8. Old Mattress

If you are sleeping on a mattress that you have had for years, it might be time to look into getting a new one. One way of telling if you need a new mattress is by paying attention to how you feel in the morning. If you experience back pain when you wake up that goes away within 15 to 30 minutes with some stretching, it’s time to get a new bed. A mattress needs to let your body lie in a neutral position. If a mattress is too firm, it can push on pressure points that cause pain. However, a firmer bed is generally better for people with lower back pain. In one study, beds were ranked on a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being the softest and 10 being the hardest. People who slept on a bed ranked around 5.6, or medium to firm, tended to have less back pain.

9. Lifting

Sometimes life calls for lifting heavy things. You’ve probably heard the saying “don’t lift with your back”, and it’s true! It’s easy to hurt yourself while trying to pick up something awkward and heavy. When you lift something heavy it’s important to squat down and bend at the hips and knees, not at your back. Then, pick the object up slowly while avoiding hunching your back. Back injuries from improper lifting are common and can cause major damage and severe pain. Make sure you know how to lift properly.

10. Resentment

Lastly, your emotions and your physical well-being are very closely tied. Researchers discovered that feelings, muscle tension and thoughts all had the ability to increase the feeling of pain in patients’ lower backs. They also discovered that people who didn’t hold on to harsh feelings toward others had less pain in their backs. Practicing stress relief and forgiveness might be just what your back needs.

Half of all working Americans have stated that they have back pain during the year. It’s time to get your back straightened out! Visit UnityPoint Health - Trinity to take care of your spine. From diagnosis to treatment or rehabilitation, the neurology team can help you with your back problems.

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