CareNow® - October 17, 2019

Women deal with a lot in their day-to-day lives that men just don’t experience, such as wearing high heels to the office and carrying around a giant bag with your children’s toys, snacks, water bottles, etc.

Unfortunately, these seemingly harmless habits can actually end up putting some serious strain on your back, resulting in chronic back pain.

By educating yourself on what’s causing your back pain, you can learn how to avoid discomfort and potential long-term ill effects. Here are a few bad back habits that you may be doing every day without even knowing and several things that you can do to ditch them.

Opt for a Small Crossbody Bag Over a Heavy Tote

From a tablet and cosmetics case to loose change and that half-empty water bottle, it’s easy for a woman’s bag to get loaded down by the end of the day. This weight adds up, and because handbags are usually worn on one side of the body, it can put unnecessary strain on the muscles and tendons in your back and neck.

To avoid chronic pain and nerve damage over time, try to keep your handbag under 10 pounds. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to remove anything that’s accrued in your bag that you don’t need.

A crossbody bag is a great everyday option because it’s smaller and doesn’t have the space to collect things throughout the day. Its design also distributes the bag’s weight more evenly, putting less strain on your back and shoulders.

If you decide that you need a bigger bag, try to rotate the side that you carry it on so you don’t put stress on only one side.

Less is More When it Comes to Heels

If your office requires business attire or you like those few extra inches of height, you may opt high heels on a regular basis. But there are drawbacks.

Because your foot is in an extended position in high heels, it can cause your calf muscle to shorten. In turn, your calves, thighs and feet can become fatigued and cause pain in your back as a result of the change in posture body mechanics.

If you must wear a shoe with a heel, it’s recommended that you keep it no higher than 2 inches. Shoes with a wider heel base, instead of stilettos, offer more support. Incorporating flats or boots into the rotation can also make a big difference.

Get Up and Move Around

Most people spend hours upon hours sitting at a desk every day, and this can wreak havoc on your back, neck, shoulders and arms. Sitting increases compression on the nerves, which can trigger preexisting back problems. It also can cause you to slouch forward, which can lead to poor posture and back pain.

By standing up once an hour for three to five minutes, you can greatly reduce the impact that sitting has on your back. Another helpful hint is to make sure your computer monitor is at eye level or slightly below so you aren’t forced to strain your neck or upper back muscles to see the screen.

Give Yourself a Break from Your Devices

It’s no secret that people are on their phones constantly. Unfortunately, regular cellphone use can be problematic for your neck or back.

When the human head is upright and in a neutral position, it can weigh anywhere from 10 to 12 pounds. Think about the position your head is in when you text or stare at your phone:

It is typically bent all the way forward, which causes the pressure to increase as much as 60 pounds. As a result, your neck and upper back are forced to make up for this added weight—causing strain and pain.

How do you solve this problem? When you are using your phone, try to be aware of how you’re sitting or standing. Avoid letting your head bend forward and, instead, keep it upright.

Ditch Those Cigarettes

It may seem odd that there’s a link between smoking and back pain, but there is.

The nicotine found in cigarettes can restrict the blood flow to the disks that cushion your vertebrae and increase how quickly the disks degenerate.

On top of that, smoking cigarettes is known to reduce the absorption of calcium, which in turn prevents new bone growth. This leaves smokers with an increased risk of osteoporosis, which results in brittle, fragile bones, and this hinders healing after a bone fracture, which can result in back pain.

Because smokers also cough more often and more heavily, they are more likely to suffer from back pain than nonsmokers. In addition to an increased risk of back pain, smoking is linked to many other health issues, so it’s smart to try and kick the habit if possible.

How to Improve Back Pain

There are several ways that you can keep your back pain-free, including keeping your weight in check, being aware of your posture and strengthening your core.

Lack of exercise is a common culprit of back pain, so performing regular strengthening exercises can help. If your core muscles are strong, you will in turn have improved posture and be less likely to slouch. So how do you keep that core strong?

There are several yoga poses that can strengthen your core, including dolphin pose, cat pose, side plank and mountain pose. If yoga isn’t your thing, low-impact moves will help strengthen your back and core, including kneeling extensions, hip lifts, plank holds and abdominal chair crunches.

If you’re experiencing regular back pain, consider visiting your local CareNow®.

We have more than 100 urgent care locations throughout the United States, and our qualified physicians and nurses are ready to serve you when and where you need it.

Before your visit, be sure to take advantage of our Web Check-In® feature to avoid the waiting room.

Find the CareNow® urgent care clinic location nearest you by visiting our website.

Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.