- Back pain is quite common and it isn’t always caused by injuries.
- Sitting in the same position for a long period of time, leaning over your phone and devices often, and wearing really flat shoes can cause you to experience back pain.
- People who are pregnant or who are sleeping on a mattress that is no longer supportive may also experience back pain.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Back pain is quite common and it can be incredibly uncomfortable and even downright debilitating. Although a preexisting injury can certainly make back pain worse, it can occur even if you haven’t recently gotten hurt.
From the weather forecast to your mental health, here are some common causes of back pain that don’t involve an injury.
You’ve been relaxing in the same position all day long.
Remaining in one position for extended periods of time can cause compression on your spine and back, explained Craig Banks, an Ohio-based chiropractor at Pinnacle Chiropractic.
“The discs between your vertebrae rely heavily on movement to get the nutrients they need and when they stay still for hours, it begins to aggravate the nerves around them,” he explained.
So if you’ve been in one position for quite some time, you may want to take a break and do some light stretches or go for a walk. These simple movements can take some pressure off of your nerves.
You’re spending a lot of time on the computer or talking on the phone.
Sitting at your desk for extended periods of time can put stress on your spine, causing you sudden or ongoing pain, explained Dr. David A. Shapiro, chiropractor and CEO at Complete Spine Solutions in Atlanta, Georgia.
Banks said many things you’d commonly do while sitting at a desk can also contribute to back pain.
“Whether it be holding a phone – usually on one side – having your arms up for using a keyboard, or forcing your head forward to see a monitor, the spine is frequently put in a position that isn’t considered neutral,” said Banks.
Taking time to get up and walk around as often as possible, but ideally at least once per hour, is a good way to avoid getting backaches from sitting at your desk for extended periods of time.
Looking down at your devices can do more than just strain your neck.
“Tech neck” is an increasingly real problem for those of us who are leaning over our devices for multiple hours throughout the day. Constantly looking down at a small device is an easy way to cause muscle tension and soreness in your neck and it can also cause pain in your back.
Banks said that when people use their devices, their head is typically bent down, which causes their neck to flex up to 90 degrees. He said this can create tensions in your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Plus, it creates tension in your nervous system by way of your spinal cord, which can cause you discomfort.
His best advice for avoiding this issue is to bring your phone closer to you instead of attempting to lean closer to it. “When using your devices, think of the phrase, ‘Phone to face, not face to phone,”’ Banks told INSIDER.
Lifting heavy or awkwardly shaped objects can cause you to experience back pain.
“When you lift something that’s too heavy for you, your brain begins to recruit muscles that aren’t designed for the specific purpose of lifting … this can create soreness from the exertion,” Banks told INSIDER.
“Similarly, if an object is awkward to hold or lift, it makes the muscles and joints be in a weird position to accomplish the task, again creating soreness,” he added.
Your favourite shoes might be causing your back pain.
Wearing certain types of footwear can cause you to experience back pain, especially if your shoes aren’t particularly supportive or if you’ve been wearing them regularly for years.
“If the shoes are too flat or unsupportive, they cause overpronation of the foot, [or] flat-footedness. The natural arch in your foot acts as a shock absorber,” said Banks. “When it isn’t there, the force going through the feet travels up to the next spot that can absorb it. This could be your knees, hips, or low back.”
“Heels also are a concern, as they force your body to tip slightly forward,” he added. “Usually, your body compensates by arching backward at the low back, which can cause pain and inflammation in the little joints between the vertebrae, called facets.”
Menstrual pain can radiate to your back.
It’s common for people who have periods to experience back pain before or during menstruation.
Banks said this is because having high levels of prostaglandins, which is common during one’s period, is “often associated with lower back spasms or even a radiating pain from the abdomen into the back, simply because of the nerve pathway.”
He said bloating or the retention of additional water weight during one’s period can also cause back-related discomfort.
Back pain is commonly experienced during and after a pregnancy.
Back pain during pregnancy is incredibly common, especially in the latter part of the third trimester, said Banks.
“As discussed above, hormones can cause painful contractions of muscles,” Banks told INSIDER. “However, with pregnancy, a person can also have back pain simply from the amount of weight that is now sitting disproportionately in the front of the abdomen or also from the position of the baby itself.”
Dr. Shapiro noted that this pain can also continue after a pregnancy ends.
Your mental health is also linked to your spine’s health.
“Depression or anxiety may lead to back pain because of the way the body is positioned,” Banks explained. He said this could be the result of a slouched posture if you’re depressed or a tight and rigid posture if you are anxious.
He said a lack of activity can also cause back pain. “Many people suffering from anxiety and depression will avoid social situations, creating a change in the amount of movement their body should have,” he explained.
“Bodies are meant to move, and when we stop doing that, pain is sometimes a warning sign that we need to do more,” added Banks.
The weather forecast might also impact your back pain.
It’s true that old injuries can ache when it rains but this actually has to do with weather-related pressure changes in the atmosphere, not droplets of water.
Banks said that when the atmospheric pressure changes, our bodies try to achieve homeostasis with it. For example, when the pressure goes down outside (leading to an increase in conditions like rain or snow), it goes down in the body as well.
“Because the barometric pressure goes down outside when it is about to rain, the body attempts to ‘normalize,’ [which] causes the space between the bones to decrease and if there is any damage to the joint (inflammation or arthritis), the person can experience pain,” Banks told INSIDER.
Your mattress could be the cause of your back pain.
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for many aspects of your overall health and well-being, so if your mattress isn’t properly supporting you, you could find yourself waking up with back pain on a regular basis.
“The majority of our weight lies in our torso and pelvis,” said Banks. “As mattresses break down, they do so unevenly, leaving a bit of a ‘sag’ in the middle. This will take our spine out of a neutral position and if we’re trying to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night, a poor position is something our backs will complain about in the morning.”
A major sign you should replace your mattress is if you no longer feel like it is supporting your entire body while you sleep. When looking for a new mattress, you want to look for one that supports your body but is not overly firm, said Banks.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.