At some time in their lives, as much as 80% of the population will have a problem with back pain. It might begin as just a bit of a twinge and progress to a constant nagging, or back pain can come on suddenly and be sharp and debilitating. Sometimes there is an obvious cause – a slip or fall, a car accident, or a sports injury. Usually, however, back pain seems to come out of nowhere. Many people will say “I just woke up and it was bothering me,” which points to the fact that everyday activities (sitting at the computer or getting into bed at night) we all do without paying much attention to them can either help or hurt the health of your spine.
Because back pain is so widespread and doesn’t seem to discriminate, finding a sustainable solution is a priority. Medication use can come along with unwanted side-effects and surgery is invasive and may not yield the results you were hoping for. Because of these reasons, there is a shift towards looking for relief from back pain that is both natural and long-lasting.
Breaking Bad Back Pain Habits
Because so many cases of back pain have to do with everyday things that have become a habit, changing one or more of these can help you to find a little relief:
- You wear the wrong shoes – it’s no secret that high-heeled shoes can cause back pain and problems. A tall heel on a shoe can shorten muscles on the back of the legs and place abnormal tension on the pelvis and back. If you don’t want to ditch the heels altogether, keep them at the office and use a pair of comfortable sneakers or shoes for your commute. Flat shoes such as flip-flops and some sandals can also be problematic. These shoes provide little to no arch support, and in the case of flip-flops, your feet need to work overtime to keep them on as you walk.
- You carry an overloaded bag or purse (especially over one shoulder) – everyone can be guilty of this habit, even kids who carry a heavy backpack for school. Many of us lug around a bag or purse that has accumulated a lot of unnecessary items. Cleaning out your bag periodically can help, and so can alternating sides or switching to a backpack with two straps to help distribute the weight more evenly to both sides.
- You sleep on your stomach – stomach sleeping can cause problems for several reasons. The natural curvatures in your spine can flatten out, leading to back pain. Having your neck turned to one side through the night can also lead to pain and discomfort.
- You’re glued to your screen – whether our job requires screen time or not, most of us spend a lot of time slouching in front of a screen daily. As we come to increasingly rely more upon mobile devices in our day-to-day routines, it is creating more pain and discomfort for our necks and backs. Taking regular breaks to stretch and reposition, and holding mobile devices at eye level are helpful tips to keep your back moving properly. Taking your neck through simple ranges of motion (looking left to right, up and down, tilting your head from side to side) can help give relief to the tension that forms from bad tech habits.
- You ignore your core – your core is not only the most commonly thought of abdominal muscles. Your core is actually a combination of many muscles that includes your pelvic floor muscles, the muscles in your back, your diaphragm, and your glutes. Your core acts as a stabilizer, so when it is weak, your back might have to work overtime leading to pain and injury.
Correcting the Underlying Cause of Back Pain
In order to achieve the lasting relief from back pain you are seeking out, it is necessary to identify the root cause of it. In many cases, the location of the pain does not always mean the problem lies in the same spot. Your body is extremely adaptable and great at compensating for problems. A simple example of this is when you injure an ankle, you begin to bear more weight on the healthy side which can lead to problems on the uninjured side due to those compensations. Your spine and back are no different – a problem in one area can, over time, cause issues to arise in other areas.
The health of your entire spine relies on how the uppermost vertebra is positioned. This vertebra, called the atlas, holds up and balances the head. It is the most freely movable vertebra because it is responsible for giving your head the freedom of movement it has. No other area of the spine moves as much as this one. When an atlas misalignment happens, either through injury or daily wear and tear, it forces the rest of the spine underneath to compensate. The shoulders might be uneven, and compensation can occur through the hips resulting in one leg that appears to be shorter than the other. It’s easy then to see how an atlas misalignment at the very top of the neck can be the underlying cause of pain anywhere else in the back.
The goal of upper cervical chiropractic care is not to chase around stubborn back pain symptoms and compensations, but rather to address the root cause of back pain to accomplish lasting results. Patients under upper cervical care enjoy precise, gentle adjustments that are tailored to each individual’s needs, and adjustments that are designed to hold in place to allow for optimal healing conditions.
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