Often, the blame for our pain rests on the simple choices we make every day. The Cleveland Clinic Florida's David Westerdahl, MD, shares a few examples -- starting with flip-flops and foam-soled sandals. They provide poor arch support, leading to pain in the feet, ankles, and knees.
Solution: Wear shoes with arch support. When you know you'll be walking a lot, opt for sneakers.
Pain Trigger: Smart Phones
Do you have a phone that lets you text, surf the web, and play games? That's a lot of mileage for your thumbs. Doctors have begun reporting cases of arthritis at the base of the thumb in younger people, possibly related to texting.
Solution: When your thumbs begin to ache, give the texting a rest. If pain continues, use your phone to make an actual call -- to a doctor. There are effective treatments for arthritis.
Pain Trigger: Your Wallet
Your wallet can be a real pain in the back and the buttocks, and it can even lead to shooting pains down one leg. Tucked in a back pocket, it may lead to compression and irritation of the sciatic nerve day after day. A fat wallet may also put the spine slightly out of alignment, causing muscle tension.
Solution: Remove your wallet before sitting, especially in the car.
Pain Trigger: Driving
Many people set their car seats at the wrong angle. If the seat is reclined, you may slouch forward to grip the steering wheel. This pulls your head away from the headrest and can cause neck pain.
Solution: Put your car seat in an upright position that supports your head and lower back. The steering wheel should be within easy reach, so your arms are slightly flexed and relaxed.
Pain Trigger: Active Video Games
Video games that simulate the motions of popular sports can result in real sports injuries. Doctors say overzealous gaming can cause everything from sprains to torn ligaments and broken bones.
Solution: Do some stretching before starting an active video game. Make sure you have plenty of space around you, so you won't trip or crash into anything. And don't play for longer than you would a real sport.
Pain Trigger: Cheese
Cheese lovers, take note -- your favorite food may be the reason for all those headaches. Aged cheese, such as blue cheese, cheddar, parmesan, and Swiss contain high amounts of a substance called tyramine.This notorious headache trigger is also found in some processed meats and beverages.
Solution: Keep a food diary to help spot links between foods and headaches, so you'll know what to avoid.
Pain Trigger: Couch Potato Syndrome
Even down time can be a source of aches and pains. Do you often lie across the couch with your head turned toward the television? You're setting yourself up for a sore neck -- especially if you fall asleep in that position.
Solution: Maintain good posture even when you're relaxing. Sit up straight on your couch and make sure your TV is not positioned too high.
Pain Trigger: Your Baby
The simple act of lifting your baby out of the crib each day can lead to de Quervain's tenosynovitis. This is a repetitive stress injury that causes pain and swelling in the wrist and thumb.
Solution: Learn to lift your baby without straining the wrists. Place your hands under the back and buttocks, and lift with the bigger muscles of your arms.
Pain Trigger: Laptop Case
If you carry your laptop around like an extra limb, you're likely to strain some part of the body. Handheld laptop cases put stress on the forearm and can actually give you tennis elbow, says Westerdahl. Bags that you wear over one shoulder can contribute to back and shoulder pain.
Solution: Try a rolling laptop case or consider switching to a lighter model.
Pain Trigger: Your Hairdo
A tight ponytail may trigger -- or worsen -- a headache. Some migraine sufferers are more sensitive to sensations that wouldn't bother others, such as a tight hat, headband, bun, or braids.
Solution: Wear your hair down and skip the hat.
Pain Trigger: Strong Smells
Doctors aren't sure why, but strong smells are another common migraine trigger. This can include obnoxious odors, such as paint and smoke. But pleasant scents, including perfume and fresh flowers, can also be a problem.
Solution: Identify which smells spark your headaches and try to avoid them.
Pain Trigger: Sleep Habits
If you wake up sore most mornings, take a good look at your sleep posture. Stomach sleepers may twist their necks to the point of hyperextension. Other people sleep on their sides with one arm overhead. After many hours, this position can strain the shoulder.
Solution: Better ways to sleep are on your back or on your side with your arms below shoulder level. Side sleepers can place a pillow between the knees to support the lower back. Back sleepers can put a pillow under the neck and beneath their knees.
Pain Trigger: Beverages
When it comes to beverages, alcohol is the king of pain. Red wine, whiskey, beer, and champagne are the drinks blamed most often for a throbbing head.
Solution: Limit your intake of alcohol.
Pain Trigger: Skipping Meals
Skipping meals causes your blood sugar to dip. In some people, this can trigger a massive headache before you even realize you're hungry.
Solution: Eat nutritious foods regularly throughout the day. Opt for snacks that combine protein and whole grains, such as peanut butter on whole-wheat crackers.
Pain Trigger: Lifting With the Back
A top source of back pain is lifting the wrong way. A common mistake is curving the back forward to grab an object, then straightening the back as you lift. This forces your back muscles to take the brunt of the burden. Twisting while you lift is another problem.
Solution: To lift properly, bend the knees and hips until you are squatting. Keep the back upright. Grab the object and lift with your leg muscles by straightening your knees and hips.
Pain Trigger: Your Workstation
If you spend many hours a day at your desk or workstation, give some thought to the setup. A poorly positioned chair can cause you to slouch forward, straining the back and neck. A monitor that's too low or too high will also strain the neck.
Solution: Place your monitor with the top of the screen at eye level. Position your chair so that you are sitting straight with your feet on the floor. Use a cushion to support the lower back if needed.
Pain Trigger: Eyestrain
Headaches that are centered behind the eyebrows may be due to eyestrain. Eyestrain may occur when you have uncorrected vision problems, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism.
Solution: Schedule an eye exam to see whether you need corrective lenses. If you already wear glasses, it may be time for a new prescription.
Pain Trigger: Weather Changes
People have long claimed that changes in the weather can trigger headaches. In particular, when the temperature rises, some people may be more likely to get migraines and other severe headaches.
Solution: Since you can't control the weather, just be aware of which changes bring on your headaches. That way, you can be ready for it.
Pain Trigger: Weekend Warrior Syndrome
You're a weekend warrior if you're sedentary all week but dive into sports and exercise on Saturday and Sunday. The sudden burst of activity catches the muscles unprepared, making them vulnerable to strains.
Solution: Start with 5-10 minutes of walking or another gentle exercise and stretch after your workout, when muscles are warm. During the week, take a few minutes to train the muscles you'll be using during your weekend activities.
Pain Trigger: Shoulder Rides
It's classic family fun: A parent walking along with a delighted child enjoying a shoulder ride. But lifting kids overhead is a common source of neck and shoulder pain.
Solution: Instead of lifting your child from the ground, sit on a couch or bench. Encourage your child to climb carefully onto your shoulders.
Pain Trigger: Grinding Your Teeth
A sore jaw combined with a dull headache could mean you're grinding or clenching your teeth in your sleep. If you're a chronic grinder, pain isn't the only concern. You could end up damaging your teeth, your jaw, and even your hearing.
Solution: See your dentist. He or she can provide a mouth guard that will protect your teeth during sleep.
Pain Trigger: Sex
The sex headache is no old wives' tale. Sex can increase blood pressure and muscle tension in the head and neck, causing a dull or pounding headache. Men get them more often than women do.
Solution: These headaches usually respond well to pain relievers. But check with your doctor to make sure your headaches aren't a sign of a more serious condition.
Pain Trigger: Stress
Stress contributes to a vast array of aches and pains. Many people tighten the back muscles when anxious, leading to chronic back pain. Most tension headaches stem from stress. And stress may play a role in teeth grinding, leading to jaw pain.
Solution: Practice relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga.
When to See the Doctor About Pain
Seek immediate medical attention if you have:
A severe headache and/or stiff neck
Pain related to an injury
Pain accompanied by weakness or numbness
Any chronic pain should also be evaluated by a doctor, especially if it interferes with work, hobbies or sleep.
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David Westerdahl, MD, family and sports medicine specialist, Cleveland Clinic Florida.
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