The Hidden Causes of Back Pain and How to Get Relief

Pain is often brought on by poor posture and everyday tasks and activities.

ByABC News via logo
April 9, 2010, 12:52 PM

April 12, 2010— -- About 85 percent of people will experience back pain in their lives, but simple things you do every day could be causing it? Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of "The Dr. Oz Show," has advice about the hidden causes of back pain and what you can do to get some relief.

Back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor's office, Oz said, outnumbered only by upper-respiratory infections. It's also the leading cause of disability in Americans younger than 45, and half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year.

Oz said that most cases of back pain are mechanical or nonorganic, meaning they are not caused by serious conditions such as arthritis or an injury such as fracture.

The spine is made up of bones cushioned by small oval pads of cartilage or discs consisting of a tough outer layer and a soft inner layer. Oz said to think of them like jelly doughnuts in between each vertebrae.

When a herniated disc occurs, a small portion of the nucleus, or the jelly, pushes out through a tear in the annulus, or the doughnut, into the spinal canal. This can irritate a nerve and result in pain, numbness or weakness in your back, as well as your leg or arm.

If you feel a shooting pain that goes below your knee, Oz said, it's serious enough to warrant medical attention. The majority of the time, habits that are associated with poor posture and daily tasks are the source of the pain.

Your spine is strong and stable when you practice good posture, but when you slouch or disrupt the alignment of the spine, your muscles and ligaments struggle to maintain balance, resulting in muscle fatigue and the onset of back pain. Slouching can put the equivalent of 100 extra pounds of stress on the lower back. For every inch your head drops forward as you're slouching, the stress on your spine increases by 10 pounds.

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