Three Surprising Reasons Your Back Is Hurting

Somewhere between 60 and 80% of adults in America suffer from back pain, and the cause is not always obvious. Read on for some of the lesser known reasons your back may be hurting.


You know that every time you light a cigarette, you're inundating your body with dangerous chemicals—arsenic, tar, and formaldehyde, just to name a few. And most people can recite a list of illnesses associated with smoking: lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema. The list goes on. But did you know smoking may also be to blame for your back pain?

One study followed patients for up to 50 years. Researchers noted that smoking, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol all seemed to go hand in hand not only with atherosclerosis—a hardening of the arteries—but also with back pain. In another study, participants that quit smoking during treatment for back pain had a decrease in pain, versus no improvement in those that did not quit. If you needed another reason to stop smoking, this is it.

Weekend binge watching sessions

Forget baseball. America's favorite pastime is now lazing on the couch for hours while watching entire seasons of TV shows. In one poll, 91% of participants reported binge watching television. In an age where every episode of nearly any show you could want is readily available, it's no surprise many feel tempted to watch for hours. While the urge to binge watch may be understandable, that doesn't make it healthy.

Binge watching combines many of the common reasons for back pain. Sedentary lifestyle? Check. Bad posture? It's doubtful you're still sitting up straight after your third hour-long episode of House of Cards. To keep your back from hurting after a marathon TV session, sit with good posture and take frequent breaks to move around. If it's practical, consider watching your show while walking on a treadmill or peddling a stationary bike. You don't need to have an all-out sweat fest, but any movement will be preferable to the couch.

Junk food

You don't kid yourself into believing that soda and bacon are doing your waistline any favors. Here's another reason to stay away from sugar or fat-laden foods—they may be causing your back pain.

Foods that are heavily processed or high in fat can cause inflammation in the intestines. Once the molecules that cause inflammation are present in the body, they don't just stay in one spot. They spread around, causing inflammation in other areas, such as around the spine. Your doctor will be able to test you to see what foods in particular you're sensitive to. Generally, foods such as dairy, soda, candy, and chips are good to avoid for back pain treatment.

Back pain is usually a symptom. Fixing the cause can keep you from spending your days reaching for that bottle of ibuprofen.