Beating Back Pain

By Israel Luna, RadioMD Staff Writer

You use your back for every move you make.


But, unless you’re in pain, you probably don’t think about your back all that often.


The thing is, back pain is the number one cause of disability for people under 45 years old. Americans spend more than $50 billion every year (yes, billion) to get relief from that pain. Obviously, it’s a big problem.


So, why is back pain so common? Who gets back pain more often? And, what can you do to prevent it?


Let’s take a quick look at how you can easily take care of your back, prevent problems, and identify some of the most common causes.


What Causes Back Pain?


Again, from the simple acts of getting out of bed in the morning to reaching for a coffee cup out of the cupboard, every move you make is somehow connected to your back. That is why there are so many things that can cause pain.


Carina Kahl, a physical therapist with Meritus Health, explains which individuals are most at risk, “People 30 to 40 years old are more likely to develop back pain. But, beyond age, if you are not physically fit, you’re more likely to develop back pain over time. Two other factors include being overweight, which increases the stress on your joints and your spinal disks, or having a job that requires you to carry more weight than your spine can handle.”



Modern life is very straining to our backs. Contributing factors can include sitting all day behind a desk, performing physical work that requires pushing, pulling or twisting, or even practicing bad posture at the gym or while you sleep.


Lifestyle Habits

If you smoke, you are 2.7 times more likely to develop lower back pain. This is due to slow blood circulation, which makes it difficult for your back muscles and bones to heal properly, not to mention an increased risk of osteoporosis.


Underlying Conditions

Not all back pain is caused by an injury.  It may arise from more serious diseases like cancer or even kidney problems. It’s important to talk to your doctor about your risk factors, such as your family history, as well as undergo regular exams and screenings.


When Should I See a Doctor About My Back Pain?


A lot of people can endure back pain for years and never need to see a doctor. When your back pain is severe enough that it doesn’t allow you to do normal activities like getting up in the morning, cooking or exercising, you need to see a doctor. Oftentimes all you need is some physical therapy to rehabilitate your normal function.


What Can I Do to Improve Back Pain?


“Being more physically active can make you less likely to develop back pain,” explains Kahl. “But, if you already are in pain, there are exercises to strengthen your spine and core muscles that will improve your situation.” It’s not as easy as going online and searching “back exercises.” You need to see a professional, because every back is different and you don’t want to make the problem any worse.


What’s the Most Important Thing to Know About Back Pain?


You might not believe how beneficial it is for your back to maintain proper posture and do some kind of daily physical activity.


“Most of us sit at our desks all day, and we need to learn to be mindful of posture,” says Kahl. “Stopping for just a minute or two to do stretches where you pull your shoulders back and stick your chest forward a little bit, turn your head, tip your head to the sides; keep your neck a little flexible too. Even just getting up and taking a lap around the office can help to improve your tolerance for sitting and lessen the stress on your spine.”


Getting into a regular fitness routine can help maintain a healthy body weight and decrease your chance of developing back pain. If you’re already having some pain, talk to your doctor and see if physical therapy might be helpful.


Carina Kahl

Physical Therapist

Meritus Health


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