If you are among the tens of millions of people who suffer from back pain, it’s likely you’ve already sought treatment at some point. If your pain came back (or perhaps never went away), it’s possible your back pain could be the result of an unexpected source.
While back pain is frequently caused by an injury or simply by prolonged overuse, in many cases, the exact cause of an individual’s back pain can be difficult to determine. Sometimes, the root cause can be something unexpected and not typically associated with back pain. In other cases, these factors might make back pain symptoms even more severe.
Here are some unexpected factors that could be causing your back pain or at least making it worse.
Several studies have linked smoking and chronic back pain. For example, patients with spinal disorders who quit smoking experienced a dramatic improvement in back pain, according to a 2007 study by doctors at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. A more recent study at Northwestern University found smokers are three times more likely than nonsmokers to develop chronic back pain. The results showed smoking affects the way the brain responds to back pain and “seems to make individuals less resilient to an episode of pain.”
With so many jobs today dependent on using computers, perhaps it isn’t surprising to know that prolonged sitting can place excessive stress on the spinal column. Of course, that stress can cause lower back pain. While there have been several studies on the effects of long-term sitting, one specific study took MRI images of patients sitting in different positions. It found that a more relaxed leaning-back posture was better for the spine than the traditional 90-degree seated position, according to an article in Science Daily.
In a previous article, we discuss how long periods of sitting are linked to a range of health issues such as:
- Back and spine problems
- Sore shoulders
- Leg circulation disorders
- Weakened bones
- Colon cancer
- Muscle degeneration
- Misaligned hips and several other issues connected with chronic pain can all be associated with long hours of sitting.
Unfortunately, reclining while working at an office is not an option for most people, so it is important to take regular breaks and even include some stretching exercises to reduce back strain.
Stress and anxiety can be contributing factors in many types of illness or pain including back pain.
“Stress and low back pain can create a vicious circle. You have back pain, and you begin to worry about it,” WebMD.com explains. “This causes stress, and your back muscles begin to tense. Tense muscles make your back pain worse, and you worry more … which makes your back worse … and so on.”
Inflammation is a major contributor to many kinds of pain. Processed foods, saturated fats and especially fast foods provide fuel for inflammation that can occur in the cartilage along the spinal column and in other joints. A diet that is primarily plant-based can help prevent inflammation. Highly colored vegetables and fruits tend to be best, such as kale, spinach, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, cherries, berries, pomegranate, and watermelon. Many spices also have anti-inflammatory properties. They include turmeric, basil, cinnamon, ginger, rosemary, garlic, and oregano.
Other injuries or ailments can sometimes be the source of back pain. Something like plantar fasciitis pain in your heel can alter the way you walk, and that can then cause your back to ache. Pain in your ankles, knees, hips and even shoulders can end up causing pain in your lower back. Chronic headaches or migraines can even be the culprit if they cause the patient to hunch or twist.
Assessing and identifying the source of the pain is key in providing the most effective pain management. Once that occurs, a range of injury-specific and individualized treatment options are available, including medications, therapies, injections, nerve blocks, radiofrequency ablation and even electrical spinal cord stimulation.
If you are enduring chronic or severe back pain, an experienced pain management specialist can help diagnose the problem and get you back to doing the things you love.
Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of healthcare experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.