Almost everyone you know, whether it's your grandparents, best friend, or boss, has complained of back pain. It's one of the most common forms of pain; about 80 percent of Americans have or will get it at least once in their lives. The aches, spasms, and sensations you feel on your back can be triggered by the most common daily habits, from doing household chores to smoking.

With age, the joints become stiffer and less flexible. Fluid in the joints may decrease; cartilage may start to rub together and wear away; and minerals may deposit in and around some joints, according to Medline Plus. This is why people over 60 are more prone to degeneration of the joints in the spine.

The rest of the population could suffer pain from certain things like lifting heavy objects, but below are six unexpected causes of back pain you should keep in mind.

Soft Mattress

A good mattress is imperative for not only a good night's sleep, but also our overall health, including your back. Sleeping on a soft mattress can lead the weight on your back to be uneven, and trigger the onset of debilitating back pain. A 2003 study in The Lancet found sleeping on a medium-firm mattress compared to a firm mattress was twice as likely to improve back trouble in people who suffered from chronic low-back pain. A medium-firm mattress allows for the structures of the spine to rest, and rejuvenate overnight.

Talking On The Phone

Cell phones make it easier for you to adopt poor habits when it comes to posture. Calling, texting, and emailing on your smartphone can create pressure on your neck, and travel all the way down your back. A 2009 study conducted by Temple University found increased texting creates more aches and pains in your shoulders, neck, and back.

Postural awareness can help correct phone-related back pain. Good posture means that your head is upright, your ears are in line with your shoulders, and your shoulder blades are down and retracted.

Doing Household Chores

Tidying up and doing chores at home can sometimes be a real pain, but for a different reason than you think. A 2006 study in Spine found doing heavy household chores like laundry, mopping, washing dishes, or even carrying shopping bags are among the most demanding chores on your back that require you to bend at the waist. This creates neck and back strain. Instead, try to bend your knees slightly or squat to see what gives your back the least pressure.

Wearing High Heels Or Flip Flops

High heels provide style and runaway long legs, while flip flops are more about comfort. However, both types of shoes could wreak havoc on your back. A 2010 study in the J ournal of Chiropractic Medicine found many women complain about low back pain from wearing high-heeled shoes because they believe it causes increased lumbar lordosis — a curving inward of the lower back. Although researchers found this to be inconclusive, Dr. Surve, co-director of the Texas Center for Performing Arts Health and an associate professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, suggests high heels have a notable effect on the back.

“High heels put the foot at an angle and pull muscles and joints out of alignment, so the effects aren’t limited to the feet,” he told the American Osteopathic Association.

He believes high heels disrupt the natural form of the body.

Meanwhile, flip flops shorten your stride, which puts an unusual strain on the feet, hips, and lower back muscles. Flip flops put more pressure on the outside edges of the foot and less on the heel, causing a slight rotation of the lower part of your leg. This changes the angle of the pelvis, increasing torsion of the lower spine, according to the Spinal Health Institute in Florida. Stiffness and pain in the lumbar region could get worse over time.

Poor Diet

A diet that consists of processed foods and sugar could spike inflammation in the body and cause back pain. A 2014 study in the Asian Spine Journal found that about 31 percent of women and 25 percent of men who suffered from back pain also had gastrointestinal complaints, such as abdominal pain or food intolerance. The link between nutrition and back pain is all about inflammation; foods high in fat and sugar trigger inflammation throughout the body, including the lower back. Choosing clean foods, such as a protein like lean meat or beans, a good whole grain like brown rice, and vegetables, can help prevent back pain.


Inevitably, smoking a cigarette or a pack a day can harm your lungs, but it can also wreak havoc on your back. A 2001 study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found smoking decreases blood supply to the discs in the back, leading to premature aging of discs. This can cause lower back pain. Young smokers are more likely to experience lower back pain than their older counterparts because they’re more likely to engage in behaviors that lead to atherosclerosis, such as heavy drinking and junk-food consumption.