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Back Pain—What is it and Why We Get it

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I’m not sure that there’s a single person in the world who hasn’t had a sore back at one time or another. My father has chronic back pain and lives with discomfort every day of his life. My husband gets more of the “I just leaned over funny and now my back is killing me” variety. And for many of my friends as well as myself, we get back pain from overuse—too much lifting of our kiddos or trying to move the couch by ourselves or hoisting our big dogs into the tub. In other words, back pain is extremely common. But rather than focus on the more negative side of back pain, let’s look instead on how we can avoid it in the first place.

Before we get into tips on how to prevent back pain, it’s important to understand why our backs end up hurting. Even if it’s pretty obvious why you are in pain—you just tried to carry in six bags of groceries at once—it might not be apparent what muscle groups are hurting and in what way.

According to the appropriately-named website bigbackpain.com, most back pain is the result of simple muscle strains. This is because the muscles that help support our spines are being used all of the time. Whether we are sitting or standing or dancing or driving, our muscles in our backs are hard at work keeping us upright and everything in line. And then of course the spine itself can bend and twist around. Basically, our backs are working out 24/7, which for most of us will lead to pain at some point.

Lower back pain is the most common type we tend to experience. This is because the lower back supports more body weight than the upper portions, and it’s also under the most stress in terms of how often it bends, etc. This is why lower back pain caused by a strained muscle or ligament is so common.

It is important to note that back pain can also come about from things other than muscle or ligament strain. The spine is full of nerves that can become injured and this will definitely lead to pain, as will disc issues. Even kidney problems can present with back pain. So if your back is in a lot of pain, it is important to see a physician who can properly diagnose you and figure out what caused it to happen.

Stress and anxiety are also directly linked to back pain. When we are under stress our muscles tend to contract. This leads to less blood flow going to the area, and pain then sets in. There is even a fascinating study that found that most cases of ongoing back pain had an emotional involvement as well. So if your boss is being nasty to you day after day at work, and your back starts hurting, instead of referring to your boss as a pain in the neck, it might literally be more correct to call him or her a pain in the back.

Other causes of back pain that keeps returning time and time again are being overweight, having poor posture, not knowing how to lift things properly, not understanding how to bend down correctly, and poor muscle strength.

So the bad news seems to be then that back pain is super common, at times quite painful, and a ton of things seem to cause it. The good news is that many of the causes are things we can control and improve upon. In other words if you are hurting right now in your back, there is definitely hope for you. Stay tuned for part two of this article, when we get into specific preventative tips that can help your back stay strong and pain-free.




We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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