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Back pain is ubiquitous. Four in five adults will experience it at least once, and it’s the most commonly reported type of pain — beating knee and shoulder pain, joint pain, and even headaches. Considering the role your back plays in just about any movement you make, it makes sense. But what’s happening to cause all that pain? Read on for seven common causes of back pain, plus what you can do to feel better.


Almost every time you move, your back is working to make it happen. This high level of engagement means a higher risk of injury, which is why most back pain stems from injury, straining, or overusing any of the muscles, ligaments, and disks that support the spine.

That’s a scenario with various causes, including:

  • Prolonged periods of being sedentary, i.e. sitting at a desk all day
  • Poor posture
  • Sudden awkward movement, like a cough or sneeze
  • Lifting something heavy with your back, not your legs
  • Sleeping on an unsupportive mattress
  • Carrying a heavy bag or backpack
  • Excess body weight

Back pain directly affects our quality of life, and people report that this kind of physical pain creates stress and negatively effects their relationships, productivity, and day-to-day routines. So what can be done? If you can identify any of the common causes of back pain noted above, that’s an important first step. By pinpointing the cause, you can take direct steps to change your behavior.

  • Stretch regularly, take frequent breaks if you sit at work, and consider a standing desk. Stretching can help reduce muscle tension and improves flexibility and range of motion. If you spend a lot of time sitting, incorporating regular breaks or investing in a standing desk can also be helpful.
  • Improve your posture. Straight spine, shoulders back, head aligned over your shoulders — these are important things to remember whether you’re standing or sitting, particularly in this age of tech neck.
  • Exercise consistently. Not only will it help build muscle, which can minimize the potential for damage from movements like sudden coughs or sneezes, it can help you maintain a healthy body weight. Those who are overweight are a greater risk for back muscle strains with just about every movement.
  • Practice proper technique when lifting heavy objects. You’ve heard it before — lift with your legs, not with your back!
  • Upgrade your mattress. An unsupportive or too-soft mattress means your spine is likely shifting out of alignment when you lie down, and it’s staying that way for hours while you sleep. If a new mattress isn’t in your budget, consider a supportive mattress pad with latex or memory foam.
  • Be strategic. If you absolutely can’t leave the house without a heavy bag or backpack, do what you can to make it as back friendly as possible. Could you switch to a bag with wheels that you roll instead of carry? Could you stash items in your car and make a few trips throughout the day to grab whatever you need?

A visit to the chiropractor can help realign your spine to reduce pain. Dr. McSweeney here in Reno can also share specific stretches and recommendations to help resolve your back pain issues by better addressing the causes. Schedule a visit today.