How Lower Spine Pain Gets Worse During the Holidays
Back pain can have many different causes, and it affects people of all ages. Spine pain can feel like anything from a constant ache to sudden, sharp pains. Sometimes back pain comes from a particular injury, but general wear and tear can cause spine pain to increase over time. When the holidays come around, back pain or discomfort can get worse.
Lower spine pain basics
Acute low back pain is back pain that only lasts a few days or weeks, and it typically resolves on its own with some rest and self-care. Chronic low back pain is pain that continues for 12 weeks or longer, even after treatment.
Low back and spine pain often originate in the sacroiliac joints, where the sacrum (the base of your spine) and iliac bones (the large bones of the pelvis) join. Sacroiliac pain is usually on one side of the spine or hip, and it often gets worse when standing or sitting for long periods of time. Lower spine pain can come from many sources:
- Congenital issues, like skeletal irregularities
- Degenerative problems, like spondylosis and arthritis
- Injuries, like sprains, strains, and fractured or slipped vertebrae
- Nerve and spinal cord problems, like sciatica, spinal stenosis and herniated discs
- Risk factors, including age, activity level, weight, genetics, mental health and backpack overload (especially in children)
Pain in the middle part of the spine, or the thoracic spine, is usually caused by:
- Herniated disc
- Injury or fracture
- Muscle strain
- Poor posture
Pain in the upper part of the spine, or the cervical spine, can come from poor posture when working at a desk, lifting heavy objects improperly, overuse, injuries like herniated disc, and accidents or collisions.
The holidays and lower spine pain
The holiday season can be particularly bad for spinal pain. Here are a few issues that become more common during holidays:
- Back strain. Bending over wrapping gifts, standing in long checkout lines and sitting at the table for extended periods of time can make spine pain flare.
- Heavy lifting with improper form. Getting that big box of holiday decorations down from the attic or carrying a Thanksgiving turkey to the table can cause spinal injury if you pick up objects incorrectly.
- Overeating. During the holidays, eating unhealthy foods, and eating too much, can cause inflammation in the spine or organs like the gallbladder. It can become hard to get comfortable when trying to relax or sleep and your posture may be negatively affected.
- Stress. Visiting relatives, different sleeping arrangements and travel can all cause stress, which makes it hard to relax and sleep.
Food, dietary choices and spine pain
If you are a healthy eater throughout the year, give yourself some slack and feel free to enjoy your favorite holiday meals. To balance out your plate, accompany those heavier meals with some healthier options, including fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, nuts, tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, green tea, and fruits like strawberries, blueberries, cherries and oranges, all of which can reduce inflammation in the tissues of the back and in the rest of the body. These foods also are associated with a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes and can improve your overall mood and health.
However, certain foods typically associated with an unhealthy diet, like refined carbs, fried foods, soda, alcohol and red meat, can increase inflammation in the tissues in your back and make your lower spine pain worse. Holiday meals, unfortunately, are usually not geared toward healthy eating choices.
The seriousness of spinal pain
If your spinal pain is affecting your daily life, it is probably time to get it checked out. Getting the correct diagnosis is critical in treating your back pain.
Your doctor might suggest medications, either over the counter or prescription, for pain relief, and he or she may prescribe stretching or physical therapy to help treat low back pain. A combination of heat and ice can also help. If your back pain is serious enough, further intervention, including surgery, might be necessary. Your doctor can schedule scans like a myelogram or a lumbar MRI to diagnose lower back pain.
Relieve pain during the holiday season with American Health Imaging
American Health Imaging provides myelograms, a type of imaging scan that allows doctors to see the soft tissues in your spine, like the spinal cord, nerve roots and membranes that cover the nerves, better than with traditional imaging techniques. Contrast dye is injected into the area around the spinal cord, where an X-ray or CT scan takes images of these tissues.
Doctors use these images to assess spinal injuries and abnormalities, like herniated discs, bone spurs, arthritis and stenosis. This scan is noninvasive, minimally painful and helpful in forming accurate diagnoses and treatment plans.
Learn more about how a myelogram can help assess your spinal injury.