By now everyone already knows how to avoid spinal injury. Use your knees when lifting heavy objects. Sit up straight at your desk. Exercise more. But if these techniques are so universally understood, then how come spinal injuries are still one of the most common conditions that send patients to their doctors? Let’s investigate by looking as some of the lesser known everyday bad habits people develop, which can aggravate these demobilizing traumas.

1. Ignoring the Pain

There is always the hope that a back pain conversation with your physician will end with him/her informing you to simply get some rest. However, rather than assume this information, be safe and get that professional opinion, otherwise persistent spine trouble could progress into a much more serious physical issue, if left untreated.

2. Smoking

While cigarettes already have a reputation for detrimental health effects, few people know that this addiction also attacks the spine. By restricting blood flow to the disks between your vertebrae, smoking blocks the nutrients and oxygen from reaching this important area, which increases the chance degeneration and takes much longer to repair. Additionally, the jolting action of a coughing fit doesn’t do your back any favors either.

3. Exercising Incorrectly

You’re always told to strengthen your core to better support the back, but if you interpret this to mean a thousand sit-ups or stomach crunches in a row, you may be doing yourself more harm than good. These movements compress the spine into an unnatural shape, and should only be carried out slowly as part of a broader core routine. Start by speaking to a trainer to ensure you are performing these actions safely.

4. Eating Incorrectly

Everyone knows that excess weight places an unwelcome strain on your spine, but there is more to your dietary considerations than just what your scale is telling you. Certain fatty or processed foods can restrict your arteries, delaying your circulation, and depriving your spine of the blood it needs to function properly. The more nuts, seeds, grains, fruit, and vegetables you stomach, the better, and ask your doctor to test whether your calcium and vitamin D levels are ok.

5. Overpacked Baggage

If you’re forever carrying your entire life around with you wherever you go, you are slowly wearing down your spine every single day. In the case of backpacks, there are two straps for a reason, use them both to distribute the weight evenly. When it comes to purses, alternate shoulders as often as possible, as this will help keep the spine centered. But most importantly of all, regularly clear out your bags to ensure the lightest load possible.

6. Old Mattresses

When last did you change your mattress? Experts warn that 10 years is the absolute maximum mattress life, but various studies argue that from 5 - 7 years is a much safer bet. When picking a new mattress, never go too soft or too hard, and be aware that a comfortable night’s sleep will not only keep your spine happy, but will also lift your mood and could very well dictate the quality of your whole life.

7. Fancy Footwear

Wearing high heels on a night out or wearing sandals to the beach are fine, but when it comes to long distance movements, don’t even consider it. High heels arch your back and destabilize your entire frame, whilst sandals can cause your feet to move from side to side, which distributes your body weight unevenly. Think ahead about your day, and wear the most appropriate footwear for the occasion.

8. Getting Upset

Negative emotions lead to negative physical reactions, and feelings of anxiety, depression, or anger cause tension in your muscles, which can place a lot of needless pressure onto your back area. Even though it may be easier said than done, try your best to forgive and forget as much as possible, or at very least, avoid intensely emotional situations, spending as much time as you can surrounded by the people and things you love.

9. Not Relaxing

If you are currently suffering from backache, you should stop working immediately and give yourself a rest. The less you relax, the tighter your back will contract, and without designated periods of downtime, it will struggle to recuperate. Take a nap, read a book, watch a comedy, enjoy the relief of your massage roller, or even splurge on a professional masseuse, whatever it takes to soothe the ache.

10. Relaxing Too Much

That said, too much relaxation will have the opposite effect. If you lie in bed all day, you may find yourself falling into depression, developing blood clots, or even losing your muscle tone. Rather maintain some degree of activity in your life, as this will reduce tension and inflammation, whilst increasing blood flow and your flexibility.

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