4 Sneaky Reasons Your Back Hurts

By Jessica Girdwain, REDBOOK

Ever bend down to pick up a dust bunny or whatever and then--agh!--something gets tweaked on the way up? "Back pain is one of the most common reasons women see their doctors, and a full 80 percent of people will suffer from an episode in their lifetime," says Martin Leland, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Chicago Medical Center. But you can outsmart these surprising triggers:

Related: 10 Questions Men Are Too Scared to Ask Women

1. YOUR CUTE FLATS: Some ballet-style flats can cause more pain than you'd imagine. Ultra-thin soles don't absorb the shock of your steps, explains Michael Hisey, M.D., an orthopedic spine surgeon at the Texas Back Institute: "The discs in your lower back are filled with cushiony fluid, but walking in flimsy shoes all day long wrings them out like a sponge." Use an insert for support; try Dr. Scholl's Back Pain Relief Orthotics ($9.99; target.com).

Related: Eat to Shrink Your Belly

2. KIDS! If you have little ones, chances are you schlep them around more than they use their own two feet. That extra 20, 30, or 40 pounds can overload back muscles, which tighten up to keep you standing straight. The best way to tote any size tot? "On one hip, switching sides periodically to help keep things balanced," recommends Hisey.

3. YOUR CELL PHONE: Yammer all you want, just don't pin the phone between your ear and your shoulder. "You're forcing your spine to stretch to its limits, and that can make your upper back sore," Hisey says. If you typically need your hands to be free, switch to a headset.

Related: 23 Power Foods to Eat More, More, More Of

4. SITTING STILL: Staying in the same basic position for eight hours (say, if you're desk-bound) can stress your back, says Ted Choma, M.D., associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Missouri. The fix: Adjust yourself periodically to allow alternate muscles to take over, so the same ones don't contract all day. Prop a phone book or a big dictionary under your computer monitor (it shouldn't be above eye level) and one under your feet. As the day goes on, remove one book, then, a few hours later, the other. And be sure to take a lunch break!

More from REDBOOK:


redbookstamp

Permissions: Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.