8 Everyday Things That Cause Pain

By Beth W Orenstein, Everyday Health; Reviewed by Farrokh Sohrabi, MD

Does your back ache? Is your neck stiff? Shoulders sore? Knees hurt? The cause of your chronic pain could be traced to common objects you use every day, at home and at work, and how you use them.

Pain-causing bad habits such as poor posture when driving and improper lifting of that overstuffed briefcase or tote can be at the heart of the problem, says Heather Tick, MD, a clinical associate professor of family medicine and anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The good news is that a little retraining can undo those bad habits and help you feel better in a jiffy. One word of caution first: If you have chronic pain that won’t go away, even after trying this advice, don’t ignore it. Talk to your doctor because it could be a sign of a more serious condition that needs specific pain treatment.

Your Computer Screen

Spending too much time sitting in front of your computer screen can lead to more than high scores at video games. A study from Norway of more than 30,000 teenagers found that the longer they sat in front of screens playing games or watching TV, the more back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain they had.

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Pain management tip: Adjust your computer or TV screen so that it is just at or below eye level. And just like you should do when driving for a long time, take frequent breaks. Get up and walk around. Do some gentle stretches. If you can’t take a break, at least change positions frequently.

Your Mattress

Sleeping on a mattress that is too soft or too hard can cause you to wake with pain in your back and neck, says Dr. Tick. The right sleeping positions also can help eliminate back and neck pain, says Mitchell K. Freedman, DO, director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Rothman Institute in Philadelphia. The best sleeping position for pain management is your side or back. Place a pillow under your knees for added support.

You also might need to make like Goldilocks, and get the mattress that’s just right for you. If you need to replace your mattress — a good idea every 10 years or so — never buy one without testing it first, Tick says. Lie on it at the store for at least 20 minutes, and don’t be embarrassed. After all, a mattress is a big investment financially and for your health.

Your Purse

Stuff your purse with pounds of personal possessions, and you’re begging for chronic pain in your back or neck. The pain management solution is simple: Make sure your purse weighs no more than 5 pounds.

Know, too, that it’s not only what’s in your purse, but also how you carry it that can hurt you. Slinging it over one shoulder is the worst. In fact, people who carried backpacks on their right or their left shoulder risk misaligning their spines, researchers at Teesside University in the United Kingdom found.

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The fix? Carry your tote in front of you with both hands, switch sides frequently so that the burden of the weight isn’t always on one side of your body, or invest in a sturdy backpack.

Your Car Seat

Sitting in the car for long stretches of time can cause chronic pain. Developing the right body mechanics, however, can keep you comfortable in the driver’s seat.

For starters, no slouching over the steering wheel. Sit erect with your spine in contact with the back of the seat. Adjust the seat so that your elbows are bent slightly when you grip the wheel, and leave a gap of about 2 1/2 to 3 inches between the back of your knees and the seat.

When driving long distances, get up and stretch your legs every 2 hours or so. Good positioning and frequent breaks can go a long way toward preventing back and neck pain when you arrive at your destination.

Your Phone

Talking on the telephone, land line or mobile, can cause neck pain, especially if you cradle the phone in the crook of your neck, Dr. Freedman says. Even if you keep your calls brief, putting your neck in such an awkward position can result in neck pain and stiffness.

Related: 10 Ways to Hypnotize Your Pain Away

The pain treatment to undo this habit is to switch to a headset or a speakerphone for your land line phone and a Bluetooth or wireless device for your mobile phone. If you’re texting, you can avoid neck pain by lifting your phone to eye level rather than holding it down and hunching over it.

Your Stuff

Bad body mechanics can cause you to end your day with back pain from lifting improperly — your laptop, your groceries, your shopping bags, your kids’ backpacks dropped carelessly in the foyer, the laundry basket, and your schnauzer that wouldn’t voluntarily go out in the rain.

If you don’t lift from your knees, you could be causing back pain, Tick says. “You’re less likely to cause back pain if you carry the item closer to your chest.” Carrying grocery bags into your home properly may mean making more than one trip from car to kitchen, but on the bright side, that means extra good-for-health steps.

Your Shoes

You wear those high heels to look your best, but beyond pinching your toes, they can also lead to chronic pain. Here’s what happens: Walking in high heels throws off your balance, and while trying to compensate, you can end up throwing your spine out of whack. End result? Back pain.

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"High heels also can make you more prone to bunions, a painful condition of the big toe," Tick warns. When you simply must wear heels, limit how long you stand in them and avoid walking distances in them. Wear a flatter, more comfortable pair of shoes on your way to your destination and change once you get there.

Your Wallet

Do you carry a wallet stuffed with credit cards, bank cards, and IDs in the back pocket of your pants, as many men do? Seems convenient enough, but the habit could lead to pain because sitting on a bulky wallet for long periods of time puts pressure on the muscles lying underneath — not much different to your body than sitting on a rock or a stone.

To avoid chronic pain, take your wallet and any other items out of your back pockets before you take your seat — just don’t forget to collect your belongings when you get up to leave!


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This article originally appeared on 8 Everyday Things That Cause Pain