Bad habits are a part of life. Everyone engages in at least a few bad habits, and many people pick them up without even realizing it. And once you have a bad habit, it can be difficult to break.
Some bad habits can be relatively harmless. But other bad habits can have disastrous results, particularly if they lead to a risk of injury. For example, there are a number of bad habits that contribute to painful conditions such as herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis and other leading causes of neck and back pain.
The usual suspects
The most common bad habits that can lead to neck and back pain are:
- Poor posture
- Improper lifting technique
- Lack of exercise
- Drinking and smoking
- Avoiding the physician
Habit #1: poor posture
If you spend hours a day sitting at a computer or slouching in front of the TV, chances are excellent that you’ve developed poor posture. Poor posture causes the spine to bend out of its natural, neutral alignment, which in turn can contribute to disc pain, sciatica and other problems.
When sitting, always keep your back straight, your head level, and your shoulders back, down and relaxed. Keep your feet slightly apart, with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. If possible, engage an expert in ergonomics to help to determine how to maintain better posture while sitting.
Habit #2: improper lifting technique
Bad habits while lifting are extremely common. Because of the extra strain lifting a heavy object puts on your joints, muscles and spine, body mechanics while lifting are extremely important. A small error can cause serious injury.
Some common lifting tips include never bending from the waist when lifting and instead bending from the knees and using your legs to support the weight of the object being lifted; making sure you’ve got a good grip on the object, and holding it close to your body; and, most importantly, never twisting while lifting. Always lift in a fluid, straight up-and-down movement.
Habit #3: lack of exercise
Leading an active lifestyle is important for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. It is especially important for people with back conditions like bone spurs, arthritis of the spine and bulging discs, because a lack of exercise can lead to weight gain, muscle stiffness and other factors that contribute to neck or back pain.
An ideal exercise routine should consist of about 30 minutes of activity, three to five times a week. Try to choose an activity you enjoy; if you like what you’re doing, chances are that it’ll be easier to stick to. Remember that exercising doesn’t have to mean slogging it out on the treadmill. If the gym bores you or makes you anxious, try yoga or Pilates, martial arts, dance classes or other alternate forms of exercise.
Habit #4: drinking and smoking
Technically, these are two separate habits, but they both can contribute greatly to back pain. Although medical science has yet to discover why drinking and smoking seem to increase back pain, numerous patients report that they do, making the correlation too strong to ignore.
It’s best to limit drinking as much as possible and to quit smoking altogether. Your physician will be able to recommend resources to help you eliminate these bad habits from your life.
Habit #5: Avoiding the physician
People have all sorts of reasons for avoiding the physician. Some have trouble fitting a physician’s visit into their busy schedules. Others are fearful of bad news or of receiving a lecture about their poor habits.
Understandable as these reasons may be, there is no good reason to avoid regular check-ups or to decline to seek medical help for specific problems. Back pain, in particular, should never go ignored; if your back hurts, visit your physician before the condition has a chance to get worse.
If your habits have caused you to develop a spinal condition, contact Laser Spine Institute to learn how our minimally invasive outpatient procedures can help you find meaningful relief from neck and back pain.