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Daily Habits that Cause Back Pain

And how you can fix them

The usual suspects for the pain in your back and neck are not surprising. And it’s been worse for many people during the pandemic because of many more hours sitting at home computers with less than perfect desk set ups, more hours in front of the tv and fewer opportunities for exercise.

In fact, a study in September, 20211 involving 232 telecommunications company workers found that 39 percent of the participants reported stronger pain in their lower back and 46 percent in their neck and upper back after they shifted to working from home during the pandemic. They’ve actually coined the term “pandemic posture” to describe the bad habits that have been exacerbated since Covid forced us to work at home and spend more time in front of the tv at night instead of activities outside.

Times of stress are times of pain

The changes in routine have challenged us. Our patterns have changed and our attention to what we do needs to be enhanced.

For example, we don’t pay attention to how we perform common household tasks like loading the dishwasher or taking out the trash.

More time at home has led to more mindless eating and weight gain (which places more stress on the spine and throws posture out of its proper alignment).

Increased levels of stress in general leads to more muscle tension.

“All of that comes together to make a worse milieu for back and neck issues, which are very common,” says Mohamad Bydon, a professor of neurosurgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and medical editor of “Back and Neck Health: Mayo Clinic guide to treating and preventing back and neck pain.”

Also, many people are putting in longer hours while working from home — there was an average increase of 49 minutes in the length of the workday early in the pandemic, according to research from Harvard Business School. And there’s no sign of that easing up, experts say. “A lot of people feel like they have to make up for lost time by doing twice as much now because we basically lost 2020,” says Jon Cinkay, a physical therapist and body mechanics coordinator at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

But there are other, lesser-known factors that could be impacting your back pain

Your breathing

Your bag,

Your vitamin D levels

And . . .

Your bowel movement habits



You would be amazed at how often we forget to do this simple necessary action, particularly when we’re worried or have an undercurrent of anxiety from life events. Covid has triggered lifestyle changes that have affected how we do everything, including breathing. We hold our breaths without realizing it, so pay attention.

If you’re like the average person, you’re breathing at a fraction of your capacity, and it’s worse under stress.

Don’t try to manipulate it or change it for now, just shift your attention to it and observe. The first thing to notice is that you probably weren’t paying any attention to your breathing up until that moment; it was happening automatically. The second thing you’ll likely notice is that by simply putting your attention on the breath, it naturally becomes a little deeper, a little more rhythmic. That’s what you want.

Check your posture during the day.

If you’re sitting in a slouched position for hours at a time, your chest and abdominal muscles and your hip flexors will get tight, while your back and shoulder muscles will get stretched out, all of which can trigger back pain and stiffness. “Some people don’t have the muscle memory for good posture — but they can develop that,” says Carol Frey, an orthopedic surgeon and co-director of the West Coast Sports Medicine Foundation.

Here’s how: Wherever you are sitting, pause periodically and adjust your posture so that your neck is in line with your shoulders, your shoulders are in line with your hips, and your knees are a little lower than your hips. It’s best if you place your feet flat on the floor, adds Naresh C. Rao, an osteopathic primary-care sports medicine physician in New York City. Crossing your legs, he says, throws your pelvis out of its natural alignment, which can lead to low back pain.

When loading the dishwasher or taking out the trash, avoid twisting motions for your back’s sake, Cinkay advises: Step toward what you’re picking up or putting down and bend from the knees (not the waist).

Stop looking down at your screen(s).

You’ve probably heard it’s important to position your computer screen so that it’s at eye level, even if that means propping it up on books or shoe boxes. The same is true if you’re looking at your cellphone or tablet or even reading a book: It’s best to raise it to eye level, says Cinkay, because bending your neck to look down places increased pressure and strain on the neck and shoulders. You can either hold the device level with your face or prop it up on a stand or against a stack of books.

Vary your position.

During the pandemic, many people have gone from one video meeting to another with hardly a break in between; at the office, they at least had to stand up and walk from one meeting to another. Being in any one position for long periods of time leads to stress and strain on your muscles and joints. It’s best to frequently shift between sitting and standing or spending some time sitting on a balance ball, which requires you to maintain balance and engage your core muscles.

Take regular movement breaks.

Experts recommend setting a timer on your computer or watch to signal you every one to two hours to get up and move.

Walk around your home or outside.

Do some gentle stretches for your hip flexors (with lunges or the Yoga pigeon pose), your back (with child’s pose), your neck (tucking your chin to your chest) and other stiff areas.

Strengthen your core, which will help prevent back pain, with planks, abdominal curls and moves such as bird dog and Superman.

Weigh your bag.

If it weighs more than five pounds on a bathroom scale, it’s time to lighten the load. Carrying an overly heavy purse or other bag causes biomechanical errors — such as leaning to one side or the other — and places excessive pressure on the shoulders and neck, which can lead to pain.

If what you need to carry weighs more than five pounds, wear a backpack so long as it doesn’t exceed 15 percent of your body weight or 20 pounds, whichever is less.

If you need to tote around more than that, you’d be better served using a bag with wheels.

Get good sleep, and with the right pillow.

“During sleep, the body rehabilitates itself and repair processes occur that are fundamental to good pain management,” says Bydon, so get enough shut-eye.

It’s also important to consider your sleep position. “If you sleep on your back, use a relatively flat pillow, so that your neck is in a relatively neutral position, not too extended or flexed.”

If you tend to sleep on your side, it’s better to have a pillow with a bit more cushion to keep your neck in the optimal position. Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended, because it throws your spine out of its natural alignment, which can lead to back or neck pain.

Get enough vitamin D.

“We are seeing more vitamin D deficiency, which can weaken bone health and contribute to worsening neck and back pain,” Bydon says. Research has linked low vitamin D with greater pain levels.

Being overweight is another risk factor for back pain, so if you’re both carrying pandemic pounds and deficient in vitamin D, you may have a greater chance of developing back pain.

Avoid Straining on the John

Consistently straining when pooping, which many, many people do, can cause a number of health complications, including back and rib pain.

How to empty your bowels without straining

Keep your back straight, lean forward

Rest your forearms on your knees.

Have knees higher than hips by lifting heels or using a footstool

Keep your knees and legs apart.

You can get rid of the pain by changing how you do things. And there are safe and effective drug free approaches to eliminate pain quickly, even if it’s chronic pain.

Want to know more? Check my website,

You can also call or email me. I know what it’s like and I want you to feel better. Dr Sharon Livingston 201 739 4700,

Source: Stacey Colino Health Journalist in Washington Post

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