Stop These 10 Habits That Harm Your Spine
If you are among the 80% of Americans who have experienced or are experiencing back pain, you know how debilitating it can be. As the second most common cause of disability in the United States, back pain is a prevalent problem that has significant impacts on both your physical and psychological health. But did you know that back pain can also affect your bones?
One of the key components to healthy bones lies in your ability to keep moving. In fact, regular exercise is critical to prevent and reverse bone loss.
A backache can lead your health into a downward spiral. Not only can back pain inhibit your ability to exercise, but it may also impede your ability to bend, move, and even walk. This inability to move can cause weight gain, depression, anxiety, and other health issues, which in turn can bring about a vicious cycle, since excess weight and depression are likely to contribute to more back pain.
Knowing how to protect your spine is vital in the prevention of bone loss. So let’s take a look at the top 10 habits that can damage to your spine, as well as how to break those habits.
How Big Is The Problem?
Chronic back pain is a serious problem with significant physiological, psychological, and financial impacts. Over half of working Americans admit to experiencing back pain in any given year,1 causing an estimated 149 million days per year of work lost due to the condition.2 In fact, other than the common cold and flu, back pain is the number one reason that people visit their doctors.
It is estimated that the total costs associated with lower back pain in the United States tops $100 billion per year, with nearly two-thirds of those costs due to lost wages and reduced productivity.3
Beyond the financial and physiological impacts, studies have shown that chronic back pain contributes to higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. Those who experience back pain report that it contributes to sleep disturbances, intimacy difficulties, and challenges with everyday living. Further, back pain has been shown to negatively impact relationships.4
Unfortunately, the prevalence of chronic back pain has risen significantly over the years.5 While reasons for the increased rates are not entirely clear, it’s likely that obesity and increased sedentary lifestyle are contributing factors.
What Does Back Pain Have To Do With My Bones?
Your spinal column is comprised of 33 vertebrae. While osteoporosis does not cause back pain directly, it can weaken the vertebral spine so that it is unable to absorb normal stress or minor trauma, such as a fall. As a result, spinal fractures, or vertebral compression fractures, may occur. There are approximately 1.5 million vertebral compression fractures annually in the United States.6
When you’ve suffered a back injury, it can be difficult to move, let alone exercise. In some cases, back pain can even prohibit walking. However, exercise is paramount for healthy bones. Therefore, it is critical to avoid spinal injuries that could cause immobility.
Exercise also helps to reduce levels of the “fight or flight” hormone cortisol, which is synthesized as a result of stress. Excess cortisol decreases bone density, since this acidic hormone interferes with osteoblast formation and reduces bone deposition.7
Exercise also produces endorphins. The release of these “feel good” hormones yields pleasant feelings and have been shown to ease pain. Therefore, mild back pain can often be relieved through exercise.
Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking and running, builds bone density. One particular study examined two groups of women who had experienced early menopause. While the control group did not exercise, the other group exercised regularly. The subjects were followed for approximately two years, and the results were impressive. The group of women who exercised experienced increased bone density in the lumbar spine and hip, as well as decreased back pain.8
What Causes Back Pain In The First Place?
There are numerous possible causes of back pain. In some instances, a catastrophic event such as a car accident or a slip on the ice causes the injury.
More often, however, back pain develops without a specific cause that can be identified. Typically, it is a result of several small insults that occur over time and collide to create a larger problem, including poor posture.
Below are 10 spine-weakening habits that can cause back pain, as well as our suggestions on how to break these harmful habits.
10 Spine-Weakening Habits
1. You Spend Too Much Time Sitting
Our bodies are meant to be in motion, but with the rise of office work, the advances in technology, and the ability to get places via airplanes, cars, and buses, the majority of people spend excessive amounts of time sitting down. In fact, one study found that reducing the average duration spent sitting each day to less than three hours, increases life expectancy by two years.9
While sitting wouldn’t seem like a damaging activity, this sedentary behavior is actually quite harmful. When we move, the vertebral discs expand and contract much like a sponge, soaking up fresh blood and nutrients that keep them healthy. Prolonged sitting creates squished discs, and as a result, the collagen around the tendons and ligaments become hardened.
In addition, sitting for extended periods of time increases the risk of herniated lumbar disks. When you are sitting, your back and abdominal muscles are no longer working to support your back. Over time, these muscles become weaker and overstretched, often resulting in pain. Also, prolonged sitting causes the upper body weight to rest on the ischial tuberosity or sitting bones, rather than being evenly distributed along the arch of the spine.
As mentioned earlier, weight-bearing activities such as walking and running increase bone density and strength.10 Prolonged sitting, such as in front of the television or computer, negates these efforts. Therefore, it’s vital to move often throughout the day.
While working out is important, it’s also recommended to try to simply sit less. In fact, those who sit for several hours a day and then perform an intense workout are at higher risk for sitting-related health problems than someone who moves more throughout the day.11
There are several tricks available to incorporate into your routine that will help you to move more throughout the day. Simple changes such as walking around the room while you are on the phone or getting up to find your colleague rather than paging or calling can significantly reduce your sitting time.
2. You Carry Excess Weight
According to the CDC, approximately 70% of the American adult population is overweight or obese. Along with the myriad of health complications caused by obesity is back pain. One comprehensive study involving 6,796 adults found that as BMI increased, so did lower back pain. In fact, obese individuals risk for back pain was four times higher than at a normal weight.12
Carrying excess weight, especially in the midsection, causes the pelvis to pull forward. The additional pounds add strain to back muscles and ligaments. As time passes, the spine becomes tilted and develops and unnatural curvature.
In addition, excess weight has been shown to contribute to degenerative disc disease.13 This condition occurs as the vertebral discs between each vertebra begin to weaken and lose moisture over time. As a result, the vertebrae begin to collapse upon one another, creating pain and nerve compression.
While obesity affects spinal health, studies have also shown that carrying excess abdominal weight has a direct effect on bone mineral density.14
A nutrient-rich, pH-balanced nutritional plan devoid of processed foods makes it much easier to maintain a healthy weight and rejuvenate your bones.
3. You Don’t Know How To Relax
Stress tenses up your muscles due to the fight or flight response, and those tight muscles create pain. As a result, a negative feedback loop begins to develop. An initial stressor produces tense muscles, which in turn creates pain. Now, your pain creates stress, thus exacerbating more pain. This pattern can become difficult to break.
The relationship between stress and back pain is significant. One Stanford study followed 100 patients and found that those suffering from psychological stress were three times more likely to develop back pain than those with better coping skills.15
Savers know that there are many stress-reduction techniques available. Deep breathing exercises and providing your body with the right combination of Foundation Supplements from the Save Our Bones Program are two ways to ensure that your back remains protected.
4. You Carry Anger and Resentment
While keeping stress levels in check is important for a healthy back, so is practicing forgiveness. In fact, holding a grudge has been shown to have an adverse impact on back health.
A study from Duke University demonstrated that among people with chronic back pain, those who can forgive others experience lower levels of pain.16 Utilizing mindful meditation, this randomized control study of 58 patients illustrated that there is a robust and consistent relationship between forgiveness and patients perceptions of pain.
5. You Don’t Maintain Good Posture
Your posture is not only cosmetic, but it also helps to ensure that your spine stays healthy and protected. Your posture matters when sitting, standing, lifting, bending, reaching, and even sleeping! If your posture is good, your vertebrae are aligned correctly. A healthy spine has three natural curves – a cervical curve, a thoracic curve, and a lumbar curve. The spine’s curves work like a spring or a sponge to absorb shock and maintain balance.
Proper posture also helps to enhance bone strength, as the weight of your body is distributed evenly throughout, thus placing “good stress” on your bones.
Being aware of your posture as much as possible will help to ensure that your spine is aligned correctly.
6. You Fail To Protect Your Feet
If you have suffered from back pain, there is a possibility that it may be due to your fashion choices. The shoes you wear are an important factor in the health of your spine, as your feet are the basis of your entire body. The average American takes approximately 5,100 steps per day.17
High heels require you to hold your body in a position which puts tension on your spine and takes both your hips and spine out of proper alignment. Also, to hold your balance in heels, you must tense your calf, hip, and back muscles. Long-term use of high heels can shorten the muscles in the calf and back.
High heels are not the only footwear culprits either. Flip flops and certain flats lack proper support, leading to poor posture, joint problems, and increased risk of falls.
You don’t have to forgo your favorite shoes, just use common sense and moderation. If you are walking long distances, bring sneakers. Choosing the right shoes is important, as proper footwear will not compromise your balance or put additional stress on your joints.
7. You Miss Your Workouts
Our bodies are meant to move and even crave doing so. Regular exercise has been scientifically shown to ward off health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and depression just to name a few. In addition to building bones and improving energy and mood, exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy back.
Some people who suffer from back pain may experience fear that exercise will contribute to further injury. However, studies have shown that not only is exercise safe for individuals with back pain, but it may also work to improve strength and decrease overall pain ratings.18
It is important to maintain a regular workout routine that includes core-strengthening moves, as stopping to exercise leads to “detraining,” which can cause a cascade of other health-related problems.
8. You Carry Everything, Including The Kitchen Sink, In Your Purse
From home to the office to the gym, we seem to be always on the go. As a result, we often carry large, heavy bags filled with things that we might “need” over the course of any given day. From books to snacks and drinks, our handbags can weigh us down.
Unfortunately, carrying a heavy load on one side of our body can lead to muscle pain in the shoulders, neck, and back. Equally concerning is the work that our body has to do to try to compensate for the uneven weight distribution in an effort to maintain balance.
If you are unable to offload some of the items in your bag, a healthier and safer alternative for our backs is the good old-fashioned backpack. If used correctly, they can distribute the weight evenly across the spine. If a backpack is not an option for you, make an effort to switch sides often.
9. Your Diet Needs A Makeover
When thinking of back pain, nutrition is often not the first thing that comes to mind. However, diet and back pain are more related than you think.
Your diet directly impacts all of your systems, including your back. Given the fact that one common culprit of back pain is inflammation, it makes sense to eliminate or reduce as much as possible ingesting inflammatory foods, as well as adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet, such as cherries and salmon.
Additionally, diet plays a crucial role in kidney function. Weakened or diseased kidneys can mimic back pain. Be certain to use moderation when consuming foods and beverages that weaken the kidneys, such as coffee and alcohol.
10. Your Mattress Is Due For A Change
We spend approximately one-third of our lives sleeping, and yet we often give little thought to the bed that supports us each night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a quality mattress lasts approximately five to seven years. If you find that your back is aching upon waking in the morning, your mattress may be to blame.
As mattresses begin to age, they tend to sink down in the middle. So rather than sleeping on a flat surface, you end up sleeping on a curve. Without proper mattress support, you may experience misalignment of your spine, resulting in pain. Inadequate sleep support can also lead to poor sleep, and Savers know just how important sleep is for bone health. Studies have shown that lack of sleep results in cessation of bone formation, but not of bone resorption, which can then result in bone loss over time.19
Stronger Muscles, Stronger Bones, A Stronger Spine
The bottom line is that to best protect your spine, you need to have strong muscles and bones. The most effective way to do this is to combine exercise and a pH-balanced diet.
Research has demonstrated that exercise enhances posture, improves muscle strength, and builds bones, all of which are essential components to a healthy spine. Building a strong back does not have to be boring and tedious either. While our specially designed Densercise™ Epidensity Training System was specifically created to increase bone density, many of the exercises double as core-strengthening and posture-enhancing moves.
Densercise™ can help you improve back strength. If you can commit to 15 minutes three times a week, you could be well on your way to protecting your spine and building your bones.
Take Exercising For Your Bones to the Next Level!
Learn the 52 exercise moves that jumpstart bone-building – all backed by the latest in epigenetics research.
Till next time,
1Vallfors B. Acute, Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Clinical Symptoms, Absenteeism and Working Environment. Scan J Rehab Med Suppl 1985; 11: 1-98.
2Guo HR, Tanaka S, Halperin WE, Cameron LL. Back pain prevalence in US industry and estimates of lost workdays. Am J Public Health. 1999;89(7):1029–1035
3Katz JN. Lumbar disc disorders and low-back pain: socioeconomic factors and consequences [review]. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2006;88(suppl 2): 21-24.
4Mathew J, Singh SB, Garis S, Diwan AD. Backing up the stories: The psychological and social costs of chronic low-back pain. International J Spine Surg. 2013. 1(7). Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25694901
5Freburger JK, Holmes GM, Agans RP, et al. The Rising Prevalence of Chronic Low Back Pain. Archives of internal medicine. 2009;169(3):251-258. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2008.543. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4339077/#R4
6Barr JD, Barr MS, Lemley TJ, McCann RM. Percutaneous vertebroplasty for pain relief and spinal stabilization. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 2000 Apr 15;25(8):923–8.
7Pereira RM, Delany AM, Canalis E. Cortisol inhibits the differentiation and apoptosis of osteoblasts in culture. Bone. 2001; 28(5):484-90.
8Kemler W et. al. Benefits of 2 Years of Intense Exercise on Bone Density, Physical Fitness, and Blood Lipids in Early Postmenopausal Osteopenic Women. Arch Intern Med. 2004;164:1084-1091. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15159265
9Katzmarzyk PT, Lee I Sedentary behaviour and life expectancy in the USA: a cause-deleted life table analysis. BMJ Open 2012;2. Web: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/2/4/e000828
10Tolomio S, Lalli A, Travain G, Zaccaria M. Effects of a combined weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing (warm water) exercise program on bone mass and quality in postmenopausal women with low bone-mineral density. Clin Ter. 2009;160:105–9.
11Young, Deborah Rohm, PhD, FAHA, Chair, et al. Sedentary Behavior and Cardiovascular Morbidity and Mortality.”Circulation.(2016): 134. Web. August 30, 2016. Web: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/134/13/e262
12Smuck M et al. Does physical activity influence the relationship between low back pain and obesity? The Spine Journal, 14(2) 209-216.
13Liuke M et al. Disc degeneration of the lumbar spine in relation to overweight.Int J Obes (Lond). 2005 Aug;29(8):903-8. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15917859
14Bredella, Torriani, et al. Musculoskeletal (Metabolic Conditions and Osteoporosis) Detrimental Effects of Visceral Obesity on Bone Health. Radiological Society of North America. Presented on November 30th, 2010.
15Carragee E. Persistent Low Back Pain N Engl J Med 2005; 352:1891-1898. Web: http://www.nejm.org/toc/nejm/352/18/
16Carson JW et al. Forgiveness and chronic low back pain: a preliminary study examining the relationship of forgiveness to pain, anger, and psychological distress. J Pain. 2005 Feb;6(2):84-91. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15694874
17Bassett DR et al. Pedometer-Measured Physical Activity and Health Behaviors in U.S. Adults. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2010. 42(10). 1819-1825. Web: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2010&issue=10000&article=00004&type=Abstract
18Rainville J, Haritgan C, Martinez E, Limke J, Jouve C, Finno, M. Exercise as a treatment for chronic low back pain. Spine J. 2004 Jan-Feb;4(1):106-15. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14749199
19Everson CA, Folley AE, Toth JM. “Chronically inadequate sleep results in abnormal bone formation and abnormal bone marrow in rats.” Experimental Biology and Medicine, 2012; 237 (9): 1101