5 Things Your Back Pain is Trying to Tell You

5 Things Your Back Pain is Trying to Tell You

1) You’re stressed out.

It might not be a surprise to learn that stress can cause tight muscles and knots in your neck and upper back, which can definitely hurt. But anxiety might also cause you to have back spasms, says Ada Stewart, MD, a family physician with the Eau Claire Cooperative Health Centers in Columbia, South Carolina, and a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Family Physicians. More bad news: Once you have some back pain, ruminating about it could make the ache even worse.

2) You’re addicted to technology.

"Hunching over a phone or tablet for several hours a day can cause what we refer to as 'text neck,'" says Scott Gallant, a physical therapist and spine specialty program manager for Athletico. "Having a slumped neck and rounded shoulders puts an additional 60 pounds of weight on your spine and can inadvertently change your posture and cause back pain." If you simply can't disconnect, try keeping your phone at eye level. 

3) You just had a baby.

Of course you already know that, but you might not realize that your tiny bundle of joy is messing with your back. "Almost 80% of new moms suffer lower back pain as a result of the stress placed on the body during pregnancy coupled with habits resulting from caring for a young baby," Gallant says. "For example, holding a baby on only one side of the body and hunching over while nursing leads to muscle imbalances, which affects the natural curve of the spine." If you're a new mother, try to be aware of maintaining good posture and alternating muscle groups so you're not constantly rocking/swaying/bouncing on one side only.

Can be related to sacroiliac dysfunction secondary to the ligaments in the pelvis becoming more lax in preparation for delivery; the pelvis may become more unstable causing back pain.  This may or may not go away on its own, one may want to consider a Physical Therapist to 1) realign the pelvis and 2) instruct you in appropriate core stability exercise to help stabilize the pelvis 

4) You have a muscle imbalance elsewhere in your body.

Everything is interconnected, and your back pain just might be stemming from tight hamstrings or weak abdominals. Want to strengthen your core muscles and flatten your belly? Pilates may be the answer.  If other muscle groups are off, it can mess with your overall mechanics and "cause the muscles of the back to do more work than they should to keep the spine upright or moving correctly," says Robert Herbst, a personal trainer, coach, and powerlifter in Larchmont, New York. You may need to work with a physical therapist to ID and correct the specific imbalances that are over-taxing your back.

5) You have a bulging or ruptured disk or something much more serious is going on.

The disks between your vertebrae help cushion the spine and act as shock-absorbers, but over time they can flatten or rupture due to natural aging, certain movements, or a family history of disk disease. This doesn't always cause pain, but when it does, it can be hugely uncomfortable. When a bulging disk is the culprit, doctors often start with over-the-counter medication, hot and cold packs, and physical therapy. 

Pancreatitis, ulcers, or even a kidney infection could cause pain that radiates into the back. Cancer can also cause back pain. "You can also end up having an infection, osteomyelitis, which is an infection of the spine," Stewart says.

Most types of back pain resolve on their own within six weeks, so if yours hasn't—or it's getting worse—it's probably time to get checked by a Physical Therapist. You should also see a Physical Therapist if your spine is particularly tender in certain spots, or if you've slipped or fallen. If you recently had some kind of trauma or cannot move, then you really need to go see a doctor.