You know the feeling, you wake up one morning and find you can barely stand up straight because your lower back is killing you. Or maybe you suddenly can’t turn your neck in one direction. How did this happen? You don’t remember doing anything out of the ordinary the day before. Did this just happen for no reason? Is this just a sign of old age??

As a chiropractor, I’m going to share with you some of the common mistakes we make in our everyday life that lead to seemingly overnight back and neck pain.

Oftentimes low back pain sufferers can find relief naturally by making changes to their lifestyles (including sleep, physical activity, stress and body weight).

Dr. Josh Axe

That Thick Wallet In Your Back Pocket

Most men are guilty of this one. Placing your wallet in your back pocket (especially one loaded with money) and then sitting on it creates unleveling in your hips and puts pressure on your lower back. Switch the wallet to your front pocket to avoid this painful mistake or ditch the wallet all together and invest in that man purse you’ve had your eye on.

Sleeping On Your Stomach

Stomach sleepers are always surprised when I tell them stomach sleeping is the cause of their neck and back pain. “But I’ve been doing it for years” they say. This is the worst possible sleeping posture you can have for two reasons. One is when you sleep on your stomach you are constantly sleeping with your neck turned and this creates torque on your spine and spinal cord all night. The muscles in your neck become more tight on one side and your range of motion will decrease. Two is, unless you’re super slim and have a strong core, your abdomen is in a sagging position all night pulling on your lower back and setting you up for disc and sciatic problems. So train yourself to switch to your side or back when you wake up on your stomach.

Sitting With Your Legs Crossed

When you sit with your legs crossed, especially at the knee, you are causing strain on your sacroiliac joint (the connection between the hip bone and the spine) and this causes the surrounding muscles to become strained and leads to misalignments in your L4 and L5 vertebrae in your lower back. Overtime, sacroiliac joints become unstable and you are finding yourself with chronic degeneration in the discs of the lower back. Crossing your legs at the ankle or not at all is a better alternative.

Driving For Long Periods of Time

When driving we extend the right leg for prolonged periods of time and this creates pressure in the hip and low back. The general rule of thumb is after every two hours of driving you should stop and stretch your legs before starting again. Also, make sure you use your lumbar support settings in your car to keep your lower back curve in its natural position so that prolonged flexion of the lumbar spine doesn’t create nerve impingement.

Wearing a Belt Too Tight or at The Wrong Position

Thank goodness low-rise jeans are no longer the latest fashion trend. Wearing belts with low-rise jeans creates compression in the hips and strain on the lower back. It’s similar to having a vice grip around your pelvis, OUCH!! Prolonged compression in this area will create stiffness in the lower back and cause symptoms of numbness or tingling down into the legs. Go for the mom jeans or loosen up that belt one notch to let your low back “breathe”.

Using the Wrong Pillows

Sleeping support is so important when it comes to spinal health. If your pillow is not supporting your head so that your spine stays in a straight line when either lying on your side or your back then you are setting yourself up for chronic neck pain and headaches. A pillow that is too flat will cause the head to drop lower than the spine creating pinched nerves, and one that is too high making the head go above the rest of the spine will create muscular tension and lead to degeneration of the cervical discs. I recommend a contour, memory foam pillow for general head and neck support to most of my patients.

Your Diet

Believe or not what you eat does effect the way your body performs. Eating a diet that is high in inflammatory foods, such as fried foods, processed meats, and refined carbs can cause your body to stay inflamed as well creating more joint pain than necessary. To fight this, stay clear of these foods and take turmeric, ginger and boswellia to help with joint pains and inflammation.

Carrying a Heavy Purse

Women must be prepared, I get it, but ladies when you have an extra 5-10 lbs your lugging around in your purse, it is not a good idea to use your shoulder strap or even to carry it on one side. This causes shoulder depression and can lead to nerve entrapment in the neck and cause tingling or numbness down the arm and into the hand. An alternative here is to clean out that purse and downsize to a smaller crossbody or back-pack style purse that is better suited for your posture and spine health.

Incorrect Posture

Small habits can lead to big changes in your body overtime. Work posture is the most common area that bad habits are created. Make sure your desk and computer are in the proper position. Your screen should be at eye level and your forearms parallel to the floor with your feet comfortably resting on the floor and the small of your back nestled all the way toward the rear of your seat. This will go a long way toward preventing lower back and neck pain later.

At home, when watching TV, make sure you are facing the TV without having to turn your head to see it and also don’t sit with your legs folded underneath you on the couch. If you are reading in bed, be sure to have proper support for your head and back so that you aren’t slouching and your shoulders are not rounding forward.

Text Neck

This is a biggie. “Text Neck” is a term coined by chiropractor, Dr. Dean Fishman. It refers to repetitive stress injury from constantly having your head in a prolonged flexion (looking down) position. This posture creates neck pain and shoulder tightness and can lead to numbness and tingling in the arms and hands. Overtime it will reverse the natural curve in the neck. Combat this issue by holding your phone in a position that keeps your head more neutral and doing “chin-tuck” exercises while keeping your shoulders rolled down and back to help reverse the strain placed on the muscles of the neck and shoulders.

You can’t always influence the stress you face but you can alter your response to stress.

Dr. OZ

The saying ‘structure equals function’ holds true and when you allow your body to adopt negative stress inducing postures you will eventually see this manifest as physical pain or discomfort. Making small, but intentional changes overtime will allow you to better adapt to everyday stressors and just might prevent you from having surgery down the road. Back and neck pain are inevitable at times but being more aware of their cause and preventing them before they start will keep you from having to see your chiropractor on a weekly basis.