5 Back Pain Red Flags


Back pain often isn’t the result of a sudden injury. When you “suddenly” throw your back out, chances are it was a long time coming…

back pain warning signs

Don't ignore these 5 red flag back pain warnings

Just like a tire that “suddenly” blew out on the highway because the driver ignored the warning signs of a worn tread, back pain typically happens only after months or years of ignoring the warning signs.

Whether you have back pain today or not, taking heed to these five common warning signs may prevent a sudden “blowout” or a new back pain flare-up. Let’s get started…

#1: Sitting in a chair all day

Sitting all day long is one of the worst things you can do to your back. Sitting requires your hip flexors, quadriceps and lower back to remain tight to hold you upright. In the meanwhile, your hamstrings, glutes (butt muscles), and abs get weak and flabby.

You may have to stay seated a good part of the day for your job, whether you’re an office worker or a truck driver. That’s why you need to take advantage of every possible break to stretch those tight muscles out. Since tight lower back muscles are part of the problem in this case, strengthening your lower back muscles can actually make your problem worse.

Here’s two simple stretches that can do wonders for a tight lower back. The first one you can do right in your chair… simply lean forward while you remain seated and reach for your toes. You should feel a light stretch in your lower back but it shouldn’t be painful. Keep that stretch for several seconds and repeat a couple times.

Next, get out of your chair and do a full squat. Stay in the squat position for several seconds with your feet flat on the floor. Repeat a few times. Hold onto the back of your chair if you need support for your balance.

If you absolutely must stay in your seat all day, make sure you have the best seat for your back. Or at the very least get a good back support or seat cushion.

#2: Incorrect exercise

Your body was built to move. So get up and move around. Obviously this builds on back pain red flag #1 because you’re not moving a whole heck of a lot when you sitting stationary in a chair. Everyone talks about the importance of exercise for your health, including me, so if you’re a couch potato you know it’s time to make a change.

But there’s a hidden dark side to the relationship between exercise and back pain. I’m not just talking about the standard “be careful how you lift” line either. If your exercise routine routinely strengthens some muscles while neglecting opposing muscles — whether stretching or strengthening — it puts you at much greater risk of developing severe muscle imbalances. Those who play sports such as golf, tennis, and other sports which use one side of your body more than the other or unnatural postures count too.

variety of exercises

Get exercise, but keep variety to prevent muscle imbalances

Here’s a simple way to get moving, even if you already have back pain: get into a pool. You don’t have to swim laps. Simple water play adds resistance you wouldn’t normally have as you move through the water, while the water itself helps support your body allowing you to move in ways you might not be able to on land. Best of all, it’s fun!

#3: Stress

Anger, depression, feelings of helplessness… negative emotions like these result in a physical stress response. Internally, your body prepares its fight or flight response to stress by releasing hormones to tighten muscles, increase blood pressure, and shut down non-vital functions like your immune system to withstand the emergency.

Your body’s reaction is the same whether the stress is caused by an imminent attack by a tiger in the jungle or being aggravated by traffic when running late for a meeting. Short term stress can save your life. But chronic stress leaves you vulnerable to conditions leading to chronic pain.

Getting rid of stress may be easier than you think. In fact, I recently shared my top 10 easy stress busters that you can put to use right now.

#4: Dehydration

More than anything else, your body is made up of water. So should we really be surprised that we don’t feel well when we rarely drink a glass of water (except maybe when taking our pain pills)?

Look, every cell in your body needs water. Water is needed in your spinal discs to cushion your vertebrae. It’s used to flush toxins out of your muscles. It helps supply oxygen throughout your body.

In short, water is absolutely vital to your health. Without enough water, your discs won’t rehydrate and cannot properly support your spine — and might rupture. Toxins build up in muscle tissue causing your nerves to fire off messages of pain to your brain to let you know there’s a problem. Joints don’t have the fluid necessary to properly cushion bone movement. And that’s the short list.

Drink More Water Daily

Drinking more water may prevent back pain

If you haven’t figured out the solution to this one yet, here it is: drink more water. Not soda. Not coffee. Not beer. Water. Many beverages you may drink have water in them, but are also diuretic, meaning you’re just going to pee all that water back out again. Drink water.

How much water should you drink? One rule of thumb is 8 cups of water each day, but larger folks need more and smaller folks less. The more active you are, the more water your body will require. If your urine is dark yellow, except after taking vitamins, eating, or first thing in the morning, that’s a sign that you probably need more water.

#5: Too much fat

Carrying around too much fat in your belly area adds unnecessary strain and pressure on your back. That’s because the extra weight throws off your center of gravity, causing your lower back to work harder to compensate.

Eventually your spine gets pulled out of normal alignment as your waist and hips are pulled perpetually forward. Extra weight forces your muscles and joints to work harder just to sustain the load of your own body weight as well.

You’ve probably heard all that before, but it’s not the only problem with those extra pounds of fat. You see, fat also contributes to inflammation inside your body which can lead to more pain. I talk about that in more detail in my book. Once again, the solution is deceptively simple. Simple because all you need to do is lose weight. Deceptively so because most people think it’s hard to lose fat.

Let me help you out with this one too. A friend of mine lost over 40 pounds and 10 inches in just a few weeks. His wife lost nearly 60 pounds and 8 dress sizes the exact same way. If you need to lose a few pounds, or even a lot of pounds, you can find out how easily he did it at his website.

So, how many of these back pain red flags do you have? When are you going to start heeding the warning signs? How about right now…

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Filed Under: Back Pain
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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2 thoughts on “5 Back Pain Red Flags”

  1. Don Bardonner says:

    I agree with all of the above comments. My most comfortable position is sitting. Laying down is the worse alson with walking.

  2. Jeremy Leicester says:

    Nice article, I´d also add activities that favor one side of your body e.g. always sitting with one leg crossed over the other or always using the mouse with your right hand.

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