Why Does My Back Hurt? 10 Mistakes People Make with Back Pain

By Dr. Brent Wells

Posted 4 years agoHEALTH

Back pain is a natural part of life for many people, but did you know that you may be making it worse? Some lifestyle choices and treatments actually increase the amount of pain you might be experiencing. Wondering why your back hurts? Read on.

To answer yourself a question why does my back hurt, you should learn the difference between what modern medicine recommends and the myths that are floating around about how to recover from back pain. Knowing how the body recovers from injury is an important first step toward relieving your back pain. 

Common ailments can become serious issues if they are left untreated or are tended to improperly. Without even realizing it, you may be impeding your recovery. Next time you experience back pain, you should keep in mind these top ten mistakes that men make. You could avoid a risky surgery or a prolonged recovery period when you avoid making some of these common errors. 

1. Too Much Rest

When an injury sidelines you, many men resort to rest and relaxation in an attempt to heal their sore muscles. They might spend days or even weeks holed up in their bedroom, convinced that they are healing their back. Spending too much time resting can lead to weakness in the muscles that surround the spinal cord. 

The injury might feel better for a short period of time and allow you to resume your normal activities. Unfortunately, the pain is extremely likely to return when you go back to your old habits. The muscles in your back are weaker than they were before, leaving them more susceptible to further injury. 

Of course, it is still important to get plenty of rest so that your body can repair itself. Harvard Health recommends that you only spend a few hours resting or sleeping for a day or two. If you struggle to get the rest you need, you can follow some of these top tips for getting a good night’s sleep. 

One of the biggest problems of lower back pain is that the patient is sedentary for most of the day. When the body becomes stationary for long periods of time, the muscles tend to deteriorate when they aren’t used. Make sure you take in some type of activity or exercise every day. This will ensure all of your muscles are working properly.

Generally, when lower back pain happens in this scenario is when the patient has not had activity in a while and then does something strenuous, thereby hurting themselves. Maintain a consistent exercise schedule and stay active.

Target Lesser-Focused Muscle Groups For Better Core Strength

The beauty of strength training is that many exercises are compound, capturing a wide range of muscles in each movement. But there are smaller supporting muscle groups that we often overlook.

Research published by the British Journal of Family Medicine found that significant numbers of people involved in strength training neglect whole muscle groups. Making sure that these muscle groups find their way into your workout is important to experience whole-body strength and health; there’s an exercise for just about any group to help.

The neck

Neck muscles are one such group that don’t receive direct attention. This is for a good reason – many of the most popular lifts that target the upper back and shoulders, such as squats, standing rows and hammer curls, also have the effect of benefiting your neck. However, there can be weakness in the neck from a lack of attention, and according to a study published by Neurology International, this can lead to complications such as dropped head syndrome.

When you build the strength and size of muscles and associated tissues, you need to grow other areas equally, or you can risk injury. To give your neck that extra bit of attention, improving posture and reducing pain in the process, consider undertaking neck strengthening exercises. These are mainly calisthenic, and focus on chin-tucks, neck tilts, stretches, and the back burn.

Middle and lower back

Your middle and lower back are areas that need to be treated with caution during workouts, especially the lower back. However, Men’s Health found that these muscles, and particularly the erector spinae – a bundle of muscles and tendons that run alongside the spine – are under-worked, which leads to posture problems and back pain.

You can bring erector spinae workouts into your regimen by using a back extension machine, or a fitness ball if you have a partner to hold your ankles. All you need to complete a proper exercise is to raise your torso, without swinging, until your body forms a straight line. You can add plates later when you have built up your strength.

Medi and minimus glutes

The glutes are another area that receives a lot of work in the gym. Deadlifts, squats, step-ups, lunges, and hip lifts will all help to promote growth in this area, which can improve your overall core strength. However, there are several layers of glute muscle, and you may not always be targeting every level.

The benefits are greater strength for pretty much every daily movement and, when toned, a better looking behind. To improve strength in this area, continue as you were with deadlifts, but try a wide-legged stance. Always be careful with your form when adapting your stance like this, and speak to your gym partner or trainer if in doubt. The goal here is to stretch the entire range of muscles across the hip, rather than just the largest set of glute muscles.

Focusing on these lesser-known muscle groups will help to give you a greater, all-rounded level of strength and better health of your back. This, in turn, will help you to look and feel better and give you a greater sense of vitality. Many of these muscle groups can experience growth with simple calisthenics but consider ramping up over time to include weight training.

2. Ignoring the Pain

What did you do last time you sustained an injury during your workout? If you’re like most men, you probably tried to suck it up and move past it. Many men spend days or even weeks attempting to ignore the excruciating pain in their back. They put off scheduling an appointment with a chiropractor or pain specialist to formally diagnose the problem. 

The pain is likely to continue to worsen without any type of intervention. It is always important to seek out professional help for your back pain as soon as possible. 

People are always tempted to ignore the first twinges of pain in their back and neck. You might continue to hit the gym for a rigorous workout or pop a few over-the-counter painkillers to get through the day. Ignoring the problem or hoping that it will go away on its own is a major mistake. Take charge of your health and relieve pain by avoiding these top mistakes people make with back pain. 

It’s important to ensure the future of your health but unforeseen things can happen, and one of these things is lower back pain. Unfortunately, when the body is asleep, it can become twisted when you sleep incorrectly, the lower back can cause other aches and pains as well. Here are five ways you can use to prevent lower back pain in your daily life in order to prepare for your future health and wellness.

3. Refusing a Healthy Diet and Exercise

It should come as no surprise that being overweight plays a huge role in your back pain. Extra body weight adds stress to your spine and the muscles that support it. A 2016 study determined that high-intensity low back pain or disability was clearly associated with higher levels of obesity. Men will often ignore the back pain that is caused by their weight and continue with the lifestyle choices they have always made. 

In contrast, an overweight man should really modify his lifestyle to reduce the strain on his lower back and spine. You should really consider doing some of the following things to lower your body weight:

  • Find an exercise that you love and do it regularly. 
  • Avoid crash diets and low-carbohydrate diets.
  • Develop new habits that force you to be more active.  
  • Try to eat mostly unprocessed food. 
  • Drink more water instead of sugary beverages. 
  • Increase the protein in your diet. 

Ultimate Workout Guide to Get the Perfect, Toned and Healthy Back

If you’re like most guys at the gym you’re spending a LOT of time focusing only on the muscles you can see in the mirror. Pecs, biceps and abs are usually at the top of any guy’s list of muscles they wish they had more, or at least had more definition. 

But what if I told you that the “beach muscles” of the front side of the body are only half the story when you’re trying to build thick, “V” shaped torso?

“A wide back is essential for a V-shaped torso, and women’s attraction to it is ancestral. “When it was important that our mates protect us from woolly mammoths on the plains, we looked for a gene pool that could provide us with protection,” says Pega Ren, Ed.D.

If you’re really trying to build that head turning physique, developing the muscles of the back, the lats, traps, rhomboids and rear delts is crucial. Not only do these muscles help with posture, building them will balance out your physique. This will give you with an overall “thicker” looking upper body and that classic V taper to the torso.

Row, Row, Row Some More…

Almost everyone who has thick, well developed, lats relies primarily on rowing variations. Barbell rows,T-bar rows, seated rows. If you want a to build a thicker back, you’re going to need to spend time rowing. But make sure you dont stay with just one variation, angle or even rep range. While you dont, and shouldn’t, have to change everything each workout, varying things slightly every few weeks will make sure you’re getting development and growth through all the pulling muscles of the back.

My Favorite Row is the Kettlebell Row

I prefer to do these because the kettlebell allows for a slightly bigger range of motion and more activation of the muscles between the shoulder blades than a dumbbell does.

Back flat, shoulders slightly higher than hips with the feet shoulder width or slightly wider. One hand on a bench or dumbbell rack. Make sure you’re feet are planted, with the glutes turned on the whole time. A good rule of thumb is to have 20% of your weight in the front arm/ hand on the bench and 80% is in the heels and hips.

Some key technique points are:

  • As you pull the weight make sure you’re crushing the handle.  
  • Pull the shoulder blade down the ribcage, “into the back pocket” and back towards the midline of the body in rhythm with the upper arm.
  • Pull the hand slightly back towards the hip so the elbow ends up at ninety degrees at the top position.
  • Dont allow the shoulder to “fall” out of the joint at the bottom. Always keep some tension on the muscles and think about stretching the lat as you lower the weight.

Lat Pulldowns and Pullups

Are both great back builders but are often done incorrectly.

When it comes to Lat Pulldowns, too often, I see guys yanking on the weight, leaning back excessively and driving the hips forward into the pad to complete the exercise. This is almost always from using too much weight. If you’re prone to this, you’d be better off, lightening the load, really focusing on pulling through the lats and squeezing the area under the armpits hard at the bottom. This will ensure maximal contraction of the lats. Combine that with smoothly lowering the weight by, maintaining tension and stretching the lats while reaching out, will keep tension on the lats through the movement and result in much better development.  

If you have trouble feeling your lats fire, as many do with this exercise, try using a neutral grip bar where the palms are facing each other or separate handles instead of the traditional straight bar.  

Pullups suffer from the same problem as lat pulldowns, too often, too much weight. But because pullups are done with body weight, this can become a real issue. Many people just can’t lift their body weight and more can only do it a few times, rendering this a pretty ineffective muscle builder simply because the amount of time you’re back muscles are under tension is so small you can’t build enough volume to damage the muscle and get optimal growth.  

Luckily, bands are becoming more and more common in gyms and if you gym has some you can easily loop a band over a pullup bar or rack, put it under your knee or stand on it and you’ll be able to unload the most difficult part of the lift and perform multiple reps. A good rule of thumb I’ve used with clients is once you can do 12 pullups with a band in a set, move to a thinner band next time and start building back up.

Probably the best tip I ever received for pullups was to pull my shoulder blades into the back pocket while trying to “spread” my chest and put the upper part of my sternum (the bone that runs down the middle of the chest) on the bar at the top. This technique helps to activate the muscles of the mid upper back (rhomboids) more so than the traditional pullup.   

Between the Shoulder Blades

One of the primary reasons you need to start training the muscles of the back is to help with posture and “balance” your physique. But none of that happens if we just focus on the lats. The Rhomboids need to be trained also to help retract the shoulder blades and counteract our desk jockey lifestyles and the posture that develops from it.

The main way to train the rhomboids is to make sure that on each rep of your rowing exercises you’re fully retracting the scapula and squeezing them together at the end of the motion. If you find that you’re having trouble doing this simply squeezing the shoulders together in 3-5 second bursts through the day is one of the most effective ways to learn what this feels like. When you can create scapula retraction and a really hard contraction between the shoulder blades on your own it’s time to incorporate exercises to directly train the area.  

Exercises like, TRX Scapula Holds, Face pulls, and Rhomboid (Batwing) Rows all put you in a position to effectively train the area between the shoulders without the lats taking over. But you can’t get lazy and must remember to focus on pulling the shoulder blades together and squeezing the upper back during these motions.

Some More of My Favorite Back Exercises

While Kettle Bell Rows and Pullups are staples there are some other exercises that are a little less common that I also like for training the back:

Straight Arm Lat Pulldowns

These are a tricky exercise for most.The key to getting the most lat activation here is to have a consistent elbow and wrist angle. The arm does not need to be perfectly straight, but the elbow and wrist angle can not change during the movement. The minute that either of these joints changes the focus of the tension will leave the lats. If you’re using a straight bar think about “hooking” your wrists onto the bar instead of gripping it.

Another tip many find useful is to hinge at your hips and lean forward slightly almost having the torso match the angle of pull. This seems to increase the “feel” in the lats about 75% of the people who try it.

TRX/ Ring Row

Personally, this is my second favorite pulling exercise, but it’s the one I use the most with my clients. Why? Because it’s almost foolproof. The TRX row almost inherently puts people the correct rowing position and allows them to get good scapula retraction. The only thing people really need to focus on is maintaining a tight line ears through ankles, not allowing the ribs to pop up or the hips to sink. Remember to focus pulling through the ribs and really squeezing the shoulders together at the end position.

Band Shrugs

Let’s not forget about the traps. They’re vitally important if you’re trying to build the “Power Lookand no exercise is as time tested for trap development as shrugs. While I’m not really a fan of barbell shrugs due to the position they place the shoulders and arms in, rolled forward and internally rotated. I also dont think most people get as complete a movement as with dumbbell shrugs where the weight is at the side of the body and the movement is a more pure up and down.

But, if I have to choose, I’d opt for a heavy band instead of dumbbells. I feel like I can get the hardest contraction in the traps with the least amount of stress on my shoulders and neck using the band version. A word of advice, don’t roll your shoulders at the top. That’s not helping to build your traps. Rolling the shoulders at the top of a shrug is just inviting an injury to your rotator cuff.

Developing the Mind-Muscle Connection; a Critical Component for Optimal Back Development

It’s often overlooked, but with many people have trouble “feeling” the muscles of the back. Too often the muscles of the forearms and biceps will take over on rowing motions and the back muscles will be under activated,

The mind must be focused on the back executing the movement and not pulling with the biceps. For most, this is difficult to do in the beginning as you cannot ignore the fact biceps are pulling muscles and used in any pulling movement. Mind visualization and practice are required in order to perform lat exercises properly for maximum benefit. Critical Bench

It’s critical to not go to heavy and mindlessly complete reps. Instead, really focus on activating, pulling with and contracting the muscles of the back. A good way I’ve heard this, deliberate execution of every rep, described is, “make a 70lbs dumbbell feel like 100lbs”. Once this starts to happen you know you’re getting good muscle activation and those most out of every rep.

If you place the same amount of focus or more, if you’re lagging behind, training the muscles of the back as you do the front and really focus the most out of each and every rep you’ll end up with a thicker, more balanced physique. All while developing that coveted “V” shape torso so many are after.

4. Rushing into Surgery

An inexperienced doctor may recommend that you immediately solve your back pain with a complex surgery. Men are often tempted to follow through with the surgery because it offers a quick solution to the problem. However, this rushed decision is one of the biggest mistakes that people make with back pain. 

You need to spend a few months trying alternative treatments before deciding to have major surgery. Consult an experienced chiropractor, try some massage therapy, or research the different chiropractic modalities that are available in your area. Exercise more often to strengthen the muscles in your back. Surgery should really be the last resort. 

5. Over-Exercising

A little bit of exercise can go a long way in preventing back pain from the very start. In some cases, it is best to continue with your exercise routine even if you have minor back pain. Strengthening the core muscles can be a great way to reduce strain on the spine. However, too much exercise can add an excessive burden onto the muscles that surround the spine. This leads to an increase in the amount of damage done to these muscles. 

It is always best to work out the spine and surrounding muscles slowly and gently, particularly if you are already in pain. This is a great time to seek out the help of a physical therapist, chiropractor, or personal trainer. They can show you the right exercises and stretches to help strengthen your back without overdoing it. 

Sometimes the situation can get really of control and then, without an appropriate treatment in the hospitals, these injuries may require a prolonged amount of time to heal.

If You Lift, Lift Correctly

In almost all cases, most doctors recommend a person does not partake in heavy lifting at all. If you work in a place that requires heavy lifting, refer to the employee handbook or consult your manager. In almost all scenarios, they recommend two people to lift objects over 70 lbs.

If you do have to lift, make sure you are lifting correctly. This means bending your knees and lift with your legs. Your back has some of the largest muscles in the body and the entire body can be affected when these become strained. The same applies to intense bodybuilding.

6. Going to a Primary Care Doctor

At the first twinges of pain, most people automatically turn to their primary care physician. These doctors are well-versed in a broad range of health-related topics. A good doctor should be able to help pinpoint the cause of your back pain, but they may not be able to offer much in terms of treatment. 

It is highly recommended that you find a specialist instead. Seek out a local chiropractor who has experience in dealing with back pain. They can offer more than pain pills to relieve the stress you feel in your spine. Chiropractors have the specialized knowledge necessary to accurately diagnose and treat your back pain effectively. According to surveys, patients who see a chiropractor tend to be happier with the results than those who simply see their primary care doctor.

7. Poor Posture 

Sit up straight! Most of us have heard that admonishment throughout our lives, but we tend to ignore it. We slouch over our desks and round our shoulders when we stand up. All of the bending and twisting adds extra strain on the spine. You should really stand with the spine, neck, and head in alignment. 

The majority of working America has a desk job. This is very tough on the lower back because of posture. Usually, the person is bent over a computer or their desk all day long causing stress on the lower back. It is very important that you continue to think about the correct posture at work.

Make sure you sit up straight and have your chair at the right height as your desk. In some cases, this is almost impossible. The worker’s chair is usually too high. If this is your scenario, talk to your boss about a sit/stand desk that can be adjusted. Taking a break from the bent-over position you keep your lower back all day will go a long way to preventing those aches and pains.

In a study of children and adolescents with neck pain, it was determined that smartphone use contributed to their discomfort. Bending the neck down to stare at the screen increased stress in the cervical spine. Researchers predicted that the extra stress in this area may lead to earlier wear and tear on the spine, resulting in possible surgeries. 

One of the easiest ways to avoid “tech neck” and other posture-related back pain is to modify your workspace. Here are a few suggestions for how you can improve your posture quickly:

  • Keep your computer screen at eye level to prevent looking down. 
  • Hold your smartphone closer to eye level while scrolling through social media. 
  • Take breaks and stretch your neck out every thirty minutes. 
  • Exercise more frequently to strengthen back and neck muscles.
  • Be more conscious of your posture when standing or sitting. 
  • Improper Lifting

One of the most common causes of worsened back pain is improper lifting. Many men are tempted to lift heavy boxes and other items using their back muscles. Instead, you should practice proper lifting technique:

  • Bend at the knees to pick up the item. 
  • Use your leg muscles to stand up straight
  • Keep your back straight at all times.
  • Hold the items close to your body. 
  • Overdoing It

Men are often tempted to go full-force throughout their day, even when they have a back injury. On a good day, you might be tempted to overdo it and actually worsen your back pain. You might have an intense workout or lift those heavy boxes at your day job. It can be tempting to show off, especially if you are feeling at your best for a day. 

Remember that you do need to take it easy and move cautiously when you have a spine problem. Experts recommend that you continuously scale back your activity until your back can fully heal. 

8. No Stress Management

Have you ever felt the strain or tenseness in your back muscles at the end of a long day? Stress can add significant strain to your back and neck, resulting in long-term pain. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, stress and other negative emotions can aggravate your experience of pain.

If you already have an injury, stress can worsen the situation. Make sure you take time to manage your stress through massage therapy, going for a walk, or taking a hot shower. 

9. Sleeping Incorrectly

A common problem of lower back pain comes at the expense of something you may not even know you’re doing. This problem is the way you sleep. Sleeping in an incorrect position can cause the lower back to twist and contort, causing moderate to severe pain, or perhaps discomfort. While one may be a heavy sleeper, the body can still be trained to sleep in the correct positions for sleep. 

Make sure you sleep on your back, you can also use a pillow under your knees to help with making your spine neutral as well. A small rolled up towel can also be placed under the back for added support. If your lower back pain persists while you sleep, you may want to consider options that offer healthy back alignment choices like mattresses. There are a few out there that support spinal alignment you can use.

10. Get Chiropractic Care Too Late

For people who are looking for a healthy alternative and to change their overall lifestyle, chiropractic care centers are the way to go. Continuing a regimen of adjustments to your body helps to maintain your body’s balance and overall health. The brain and spinal cord communicate by sending messages back and forth, and when lower back pain interferes with these messages, the nerves which are being prohibited do not allow the body the natural ability to heal itself.

This is where chiropractic care comes in handy for the patient. Seeing a chiropractor every week until your problem is resolved is generally what patients do, however, a regularly scheduled chiropractic appointment each month is also important to keep those communication lines between your brain and nervous system open.

If you are one of the many people who has been educating themselves on better health for you and your family, you’re on the right track. However, don’t forget about the importance of the entire body when it comes to your health.

If you are faced with lower back pain, there are several options you have where you can combat this ailment. If you are trying to prevent lower back pain, these five strategies will help ensure that you are getting the maximum results by doing these things on a consistent basis.

About the author Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Brent Wells is a graduate of the University of Nevada where he earned his bachelor of science degree before moving on to complete his doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College. He founded Better Health Chiropractor Anchorage in Alaska in 1998. He became passionate about being in the chiropractic field after his own experiences with hurried, unprofessional healthcare providers. The goal for Dr. Wells is to treat his patients with care and compassion while providing them with a better quality of life through his professional treatment.

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