The Top 5 Ways to Injure the Spine

We’ve all been there. One minute your doing something around the house or at work, the next your bent over double because of excruciating low back pain that seemingly came out of nowhere.

Most of the time our reaction is “oh no I threw my back out” but the truth is unless you did something specific to cause the pain such as falling on concrete or slipping on a slick surface there was some underlying problem that has been building up for several weeks or longer.

So what are the top 5 causes of these underlying problems with our spines that eventually lead to the “threw my back out” moment? Each of the following is something you probably do often so read on and learn which movements and activities are the most likely to cause injury to the spine.


  1. Sitting– Do you do office work? How about after work watching TV or maybe you have a long commute to and from the office? Whatever the reason whenever we sit for extended periods of time the lower back is under much more pressure than when you are standing or laying down. Over time this causes the muscles to fatigue and shift more body weight onto the spinal joints causing them to slowly slip out of place. This leads to increased pressure on the nerve exiting the spine and over several weeks leads to back pain, sciatica flare ups and more. If you sit more than 2-3 hours a day consider getting up and walking every 20 minutes or so and adding some stretching into your daily routine.
  2. Improper Lifting Technique- Admit it. You have done this one. At one point or another most of have gotten lazy and bent over to lift something and just forced it up using the upper body and back. The reason this is such a common way of injuring the back is because when you lean over and lift with the upper body instead of bending at the knees and using your legs is because you then isolate the much smaller upper back muscles. The lower back gets stuck stabilizing the upper body instead of helping lift which commonly leads to lower back strain/sprain injuries.
  3. Shoveling/Raking– The motions involved in these two activities are bending and twisting.  This motion, no matter what you are doing, puts the spine at serious risk for injury because of the shearing motion placed on the vertebral discs.  This is a seriously compromised position and the chances of injury rise exponentially when you lift and twist compared to a straight on lift.
  4. Tech Neck– This is a relatively new phenomenon thanks largely to smart phones and other fancy new gadgets. People spend much too much time looking down at the screen and repetitive strain eventually fatigues the muscles and causes the neck vertebrae to shift and pinch nerves in the neck. This leads to muscle pain in the neck and shoulders, shooting pain down the arms and sometimes numbness in the hands in extreme cases.
  5. Sleeping on the Stomach– Sleep position is an easy way to either help or hurt your spine.  Sleeping on the back is the best position followed by the left side, then right side. It’s never good to sleep on your stomach because it extends the neck and compresses the neck and upper mid back. Laying like this for several hours will cause the bones in the neck and upper back to shift, stressing muscles, pinching nerves and leading to neck and shoulder pain.  This can also compromise the lower mid back and lower back if you are laying in positions to compensate the neck and upper back compression.  Moral of the story… don’t sleep on your stomach.


While this list is far from comprehensive these are the 5 most common sources of non-traumatic injury I see in my office.  Notice that each one is caused by some form of repetitive strain on the pain and typically develops over time.  Also, take note that everyone does all of these at some time or another.  Your spine is  dynamic and responds to stresses put on it so it is important to maintain it’s health and integrity.  If you have problems with neck and back pain, sciatica, tingling in the arms and hands or other related issues contact us and see if we can help.


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Austin EricksonAbout the Author

Dr. Austin Erickson is a chiropractor with offices in Glenwood City and the 4 Corners near New Richmond, Wisconsin. He is an expert at combining chiropractic treatment with nutritional advice to achieve excellent results. He has cured himself of psoriasis and autoimmune related arthritis using his protocols. Connect with him on Twitter and Google+


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