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3 Surprising Reasons You Have Back Pain

Pain in your neck and back can put a real damper on your day (or month). And if you’re like half the American population, you’ve probably felt that discomfort at least once in the past year. “People think it’s a natural occurrence that they just have to deal with,” says Todd Sinett, DC, NYC–based chiropractor and author of the forthcoming 3 Weeks to a Better Back. But you can stop the suffering with a few lifestyle tweaks. Follow Sinett's advice for finding relief.

Diet. “Any food that upsets your digestive system can cause pain,” says Sinett. “That’s because our chemical system (and what happens to our organs) is linked to our muscular system.” When substances hurt your stomach, they can elevate cortisol levels, which eventually causes inflammation in the body and, therefore, more aches. Sidestep a negative reaction by cutting back on caffeine, sweeteners and processed foods and upping your intake of calcium (and vitamin D to help absorb that calcium), whole grains, fresh fruits and veggies. Also, make sure to switch up your meals often to get a wide range of nutrients.

Stress. When you become emotionally tense, your muscles contract, making your body tight too. Over a long period of time this can lead to back pain. So here's full permission to splurge on a massage (or ask for one from your hubby) when you’re feeling overwhelmed—it’ll benefit your mind and your body. Remember to take deep breaths when you’re feeling anxious, and try to incorporate meditation into your weekly schedule. It’s not as hard as you think.

Sitting. Besides shortening how long we live, staying off your feet all day also causes serious soreness. Our bodies aren’t meant to slouch on a train, hunch over a keyboard, then lounge on a couch. You need to counteract the tension created by poor posture, as well as get out of your seat way more often.

One of the best stretches you can do is an extension: Lie on your back on a stability ball so it’s placed just above your butt and hits between your shoulder blades. Plant your feet on the floor, knees at 90 degrees, and extend your arms straight behind you. Hold this position for two minutes, and try to do it twice a day. (Sinett also recommends doing this on his BackBridge.) If you don’t have an exercise ball, perform the standing abdominal stretch: Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent. Lift arms in front of you until they extend straight overhead. Bend back slightly, stretching the abs. Hold for a few seconds, then repeat 12 times.