You've probably read a lot about the common causes of back pain in the U.S., from lifting something the wrong way to weekend warrior sports activities that leave you feeling twice your age. Would it surprise you to know there are other things that you or a loved one might be doing that can invite spine problems and pain? Here are some less common but still important-to-consider contributors to back pain.
Back Pocket Bulk
A thick wallet or large smart phone that is constantly carried in the back pocket of pants and repeatedly sat upon has been reported as a source of chronic low back pain. In fact, health care providers have actually given this type of problem a name: Wallet Neuropathy. What happens when sitting on a large wallet or bulky cell phone is an abnormal twisting of the spine and a compression of nerves that extend through the buttocks and down each leg. These abnormal motions can result in dysfunction and pain over time. The good news is: there’s a simple preventative solution – move the wallet or phone to a jacket pocket or purse or invest in a sleeker wallet style with less bulk to it.
Among the chief complaints of the last trimester of pregnancy is back pain. It makes sense since the human growing inside of you is gaining weight – weight that is concentrated in the abdomen. This puts many women off-balance and causes a lean-back effect in order to stabilize. It might surprise you to know however, that even after a baby is born, some women continue to experience significant back pain episodes. The reason is multi-faceted but research indicates that some women experience back pain after pregnancy when they already have a history of back pain episodes, are at a younger age at onset and have a greater body weight. For those who don’t have a previous back pain history, one study reports that new-onset back pain after childbirth is associated with a greater body weight and shorter height. Of course, another significant contributing factor can be the constant lifting and carrying around of the new baby who continues to grow.
We know it’s bad for the lungs and can cause cancer, but smoking is also a significant contributor to chronic back pain. One study links smoking to lower back pain as a result of damage to the vascular structures of the discs and joints. Another study suggests that smoking interferes with brain functions that control pain, making smokers at greater risk for developing pain. Of course, the easiest way to minimize your risk of back pain is to quit smoking today. Have an honest discussion with your physician and let him or her know that you’re ready. There are now more resources than ever before to help you quit and your spine will thank you for it.
Your spine is built to be a strong support system for your entire body. Sometimes, you can’t prevent things from going wrong with it. But there is much you CAN do to keep it the powerful supporter that it really is. Take care of it and it will take care of you for many years to come.