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5 common causes for a bad back (and what you can do about them!)

A chiropractor may help to ease this woman's back

There really is nothing worse than a bad back. When it aches or is painful just to move around it can really hold you back and can be a massive inconvenience. A bad back isn’t just like an arm or leg that you can rest until it’s better, it’s something that will bend and flex with you with every movement you make. There are lots of reasons for a bad back; here are a few common causes and what you can do about them!


When you think of posture, it’s easy to focus on the way you walk and stand. And while of course, these are important it’s the way you hold and carry yourself the rest of the time too.

Any back and neck pain chiropractor will tell you, posture is so important when it comes to maintaining good spine health. When you’re driving, how is your seat positioned? Adjusting the position and using a lumbar pillow can help.

When you’re at work, make sure your computer chair is comfortable and supportive. A high-quality, ergonomically designed desk chair is the way to go.

Spend a little extra, your back will thank you for it. Hunching is bad for your back, sit up straight as much as possible and be careful when you’re picking things up from the ground. Bend your knees rather than hunching over.

Sleeping position

Since we spend around eight hours a day lying down if you have the wrong mattress you’re of course going to experience issues including back pain. Your mattress should be replaced every seven years to ensure it stays firm and supportive- memory foam, gel and latex are all good choices as springs wear faster.

Pillows are another thing that could be the difference between back pain and a great night’s sleep. Anything too soft or too firm is going to impact the way your body is positioned so make sure you find something that’s right for you.

Also, replace your pillow every year as they can accumulate dust mites and their waste and be bad for your breathing. Your actual sleeping position can increase your chances of back pain too.

Lying on your front or your back, for example, can both put pressure on the lower back. If you like to sleep on your back, place a pillow under your lower spine.


The problem with carrying extra weight is that it puts strain on just about every part of your body. It affects your organs, disrupts your hormones, and can make moving around more difficult which can affect your fitness levels.

It can be particularly problematic for your musculoskeletal system. As well as sore knees, feet, and shins when you’re on your feet too long, if you have too much excess weight you can find that your back aches too.

A large stomach combined with a weak core can pull the pelvis out of alignment, pulling on the supporting muscles and ligaments and feeling very painful. Plus the weight of your upper body can push down on the curve of your spine again causing aches and pains.

If you’re experiencing lower back pain and aren’t sure of the cause, carrying excess body weight might be the underlying reason. Back pain is debilitating.

As humans, we were built to walk and move around, and having that taken away from you due to pain can be difficult to handle. But there are things you can do, including looking at this list of natural pain relievers that are good for lower back pain and losing weight (if you need to do so).

There are plenty of great health benefits for maintaining a healthy weight. You cut your risk of all kinds of preventable diseases, boost immunity, fertility, self-esteem, and much more. Getting rid of your back pain will of course be a huge bonus.


Just like any other muscle in the body, the muscles of the back can flare up when injured. Sprains and strains from accidents or sports can be extremely painful.

Depending on the extent of the incident you might feel pain anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Be careful when you’re jumping, twisting, and moving around a lot- it doesn’t take much to overextend the muscle and tear the fibers.

Bed rest generally isn’t recommended for minor back injuries, getting back to your normal activities will actually prevent it from seizing up or getting worse. Ice is good for swelling, then heat to ease muscle pain. You will make a full recovery in time.

Dominant muscles take over

A lesser-known cause of back pain can be an imbalance between muscle strength in the body, specifically, one muscle group being stronger than others and doing the majority of work.

As Pilates instructor Lesley Logan explains in this in-depth guide to beating back pain, full-body functional movement training can help ease back pain that results from an overly dominant muscle group. A great example is a Pilates class that focuses on mat work and includes special equipment, such as the Cadillac.

16 thoughts on “5 common causes for a bad back (and what you can do about them!)”

  1. For a form of exercise that doesn’t involve too much strenuous effort, yoga has done wonders for me.

    Definitely resting on your bed won’t be the best idea. However, I have been relieved when I lay down on the floor. Sometimes, I put down those colorful children mats and lay on them. The firmness is enough to relieve my back muscles of any effort so they can relax for a moment.

    Finding the cause is super important. If you find the trigger, you can change it and prevent the pain. For myself, a lot had to do with sleeping on a second-hand coil mattress that’s worn out in the center + sitting long hours in front of my computer, slouched over my keyboard.

    Got myself a new bed + new chair + new yoga routine. No more back pain. :)

  2. I was aware that moving would be a challenge, at my age can’t afford to become injured by carelessness, or at any age, I should say, but regardless of the risk, there’s countless of people who just do that, and many get injured, some severely, unfortunately.

    1. The prevalence of low back pain (LBP) is common, as 70-85% of ALL PEOPLE have back pain that requires treatment of some sort at some time in life.

    2. On a yearly basis, the annual prevalence of back pain averages 30% and once you have back pain, the likelihood of recurrence is high.

    3. Back pain is the most common cause of activity limitation in people less than 45 years of age.

    4. Back pain is the 2nd most frequent reason for physician visits, the 5th ranking reason for hospital admissions, and is the 3rd most common cause for surgical procedures.

    5. About 2% of the US workforce receives compensation for back injuries annually.

    6. Similar statistics exist for other countries, including the UK and Sweden.

    One reason has to do with the bio-mechanics of the biped – that is, the two legged animal. When compared to the 4-legged species, the vertically loaded spine carries more weight in the low back, shows disk and joint deterioration and/or arthritis much sooner, and we overload the back more frequently because, well, we can!

    So, one can’t never be too careful to avoid back injury.

    Christy, thanks for the article to remind us. :-)

    1. Thank you SO MUCH for these back pain statistics, my friend. You always add such value in everything you write. It’s surprising how many people have back pain and, sadly, it can really alter a person’s lifestyle.

  3. Great post Christy. I had chronic, low-level back and neck pain for many years. Over the past six years yoga, posture, and massage were some of the more significant steps forward. Not only have eliminated much of the pain — the speed of recovery when I have a minor “injury” is amazing.

    Have a fantastic week!

  4. Hi Christy! Terrific post! My hubby has a terrible back and the number one cause of it, which you’ve mentioned, is bad posture! His old work had quite low tables and since he’s tall he had to bend over alot. Which wasn’t great. It actually caused him alot of pain!

  5. My friend who developed a life long problem after just picking up a heavy object… Makes me think, our back is one of the strongest and yet the most fragile part. Our body actually, it’s perfect till it’s not.

  6. Until the not so distant past, people had been doing physical works, that’s how our organism is wired. No wonder we tend to have health problems these days, when we sit at the office, in the car or in front of tv/laptop screens.

  7. I would say if your mattress is old, lumpy and not supportive, get a new one! My bad back is from getting hit by a bicycle. (I was on the sidewalk…hello illegal cyclist, get on the road or don’t bicycle!!!)
    The new mattress is a big help.

  8. Hi Christy…
    I suffered a crushed T-6 vertebra in June while lifting the back of the sailboat to reposition the boat. At first I hardly noticed it other than a soft popping sound, but within a few days it became apparent something was very wrong.
    It is advisable to everyone they be certain to take 3-5000 units of vitamin D and be sure and take calcium as the two work together. Failure to do so can result in a loss of bone density and weak and fragile bones as we age.

    Thanks for all the tips… Hugs

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