Five Reasons Why Your Back Hurts, Ladies
Back pain is an incredibly common ailment – about 80% of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lives. And chronic back pain is a problem for many women, especially those with lifestyle and anatomical risk factors. Dr. Alfred O. Bonati, Orthopaedic surgeon and founder of The Bonati Spine Institute in Hudson, FL, has the five most common causes of back pain in women, and the simple solutions for relief.
1. Desk jobs and being constantly connected to our smart phones. Sitting in front of a computer monitor for hours at a time may lead to or contribute to pain, especially if you have poor posture or use a chair with inadequate back support. Sitting puts pressure on disks and vertebrae in our spine, much more so than walking or standing. Additionally, using smartphones or tablet computers frequently can cause pain in our shoulders, neck and back.
Some simple solutions: adjust your seat so your computer monitor is at eye level, your arms and knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, and your feet rest on the floor. Consider investing in a lower back support brace for lumbar support. These braces, which attach using Velcro, can be taken on and off easily, and are also useful for long car rides or events that require prolonged sitting. Take frequent breaks, even if it’s just to stand and do some light stretches. Occasionally hold your phone or tablet out in front of you, to avoid strain on your neck.
2. Fitness Level. Back pain is more common among women who aren’t physically fit. Strong back and abdominal muscles are essential for doing everyday tasks, like lifting a small child or carrying groceries. That’s why it’s important to build a strong core – composed of your back, side, pelvic, buttock and abdominal muscles – even if you’re not a fitness buff. Consult a physician for a list of low-impact, age-appropriate exercises that are specifically targeted to strengthening lower back and abdominal muscles.
Additionally, incorporate 30 minutes of low-impact exercises such as speed walking, swimming or stationary bike riding can increase muscle strength and flexibility. These activities boost blood flow to back muscles, while relieving pain and stiffness. Yoga, with its emphasis on stretching and strengthening, also is effective for improving core strength and posture.
3. Being a “stomach sleeper.” Sleeping on your belly places pressure on joints and muscles. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend sleeping on your side with knees drawn up in a fetal position, which can help open up the joints in the spine and relieve pressure by reducing the curvature of the spine. When it comes to choosing a mattress, Dr. Bonati recommends a firm one, which will support the natural neutral position of the spine.
4. Fashion choices. Sandals and flip-flops often provide little, if any, arch support, and continuous wear can lead to back problems. Stilettos push your balance from the center of your feet to the balls of your feet shifts your body weight, causing strain on many parts of your body, including the spine.
Opt for shoes that offer good arch and heel support. Also, opt for a smaller purse or tote bag. Your bag should weigh less than 10 percent of your body weight.
5. Pregnancy. Reports show 50-70% of pregnant women have back pain at some point. The pain can result from a number of factors, including hormones, a shift in your center of gravity, poor posture, and stress. Simple remedies include light exercise, prenatal yoga, supportive shoes, practicing good posture, wearing a support belt under the lower abdomen, and avoidance of sleeping on your back. Some back pain symptoms, however, should result in an immediate call to your physician. They include: severe, constant or progressively worsening back pain; pain accompanied by a fever; a loss of feeling in one or both legs; a loss of sensation in your buttocks, groin, genital area; low back pain in the late second or third trimester; pain under your ribs. Read more about pregnancy and back pain here.