The 33 bones that make up the human spine are a complex mix of nerves, soft tissues, and joints. When working in perfect harmony, all of these components result in effortless movement throughout the day as you sit, stand, bend, turn, and stretch. When something irritates or injures one of these parts, you may experience back pain. Santa Monica spine surgeons discuss a few scenarios that can trigger this type of pain.
1. Morning Muscle Stiffness
Spine-supporting muscles sometimes become stiff overnight and result in pain in the lower back or neck. Light stretching may provide relief as your muscles regain normal flexibility. You can also try:
- Being mindful of your sleeping positions
- Sleeping on your back or side
- Avoiding strenuous exercise before bed
2. Too Much Lower Back Pressure from Sitting
Sitting in one position for too long puts added pressure on the lower spine and its supporting muscles. When these tissues are compressed, blood flow and circulation are affected, which also impacts the spine and its discs. Minimize this risk by:
- Getting up periodically to stretch or move
- Watching your posture while you sit
- Using ergonomically designed chairs
3. A Powerful Sneeze
The volatility of a sneeze is estimated to be about 100 mph, and it may cause back pain by putting sudden pressure on your spine, discs, or underlying soft tissues as you bend or lean forward. A sneeze can’t be prevented, but making an effort to keep your back still when you do can protect your spine.
4. Ankylosing Spondylitis
Back pain that only seems to become a problem when lying down may be ankylosing spondylitis, a form of spinal arthritis. This chronic inflammatory condition sometimes causes vertebrae to fuse over time. Treatment will depend on how far the condition has advanced and what part of the spine is affected.
5. Too Much Focus on Certain Muscle Groups
Spending too much time on one set of muscles, like those in the legs or directly in the back, may leave other muscle groups weaker. This imbalance can make some muscles compensate for the others. Exercises that involve repetitive movements, like running or jogging, may also lead to back pain due to increased wear on the discs that cushion the spine (disc degeneration). When exercising, remember to:
- Pay attention to all key muscle groups that support your spine, including the abdominals (flexors) and side muscles (obliques or rotators)
- Opt for gentler forms of exercise like water aerobics or yoga if you have persistent back pain
- Avoid the temptation to “push through pain,” and rest or apply heat or ice if you experience discomfort
6. You’re Over-Stressed
Occasional anxiety and stress is a normal part of life. However, if it’s something you experience on a regular basis, it may be what’s contributing to your pain. It’s believed that prolonged anxiety and stress contributes to back pain because:
- Physical sensations are more noticeable (hypersensitivity)
- The body is producing more of the stress hormone cortisol
- Sleeping habits may change due to stress, so spinal tissues don’t have time to naturally heal
Oftentimes, back pain will be related to some type of muscle strain. If this is the case, it’s likely temporary and may go away with the help of home remedies or over-the-counter medications. “Temporary” for back pain can range from a day or two to a few weeks, depending on what’s causing it. If your back pain persists longer than that or is getting worse, see your doctor or a board-certified spine physician in Santa Monica.
If your back pain is affecting your quality of life, it may be time to consider spine surgery. At The Spine Institute Center, we specialize in a variety of minimally invasive procedures like spinal fusion and decompression surgery. Santa Monica patients can rely on Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons to diagnose the source of their pain and find an effective solution for relief. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an appointment and take the first steps toward living a pain-free life.