Common mistakes that cause back pain


Being riddled with back pain woes is no joke – the chronic aches disrupt our train of thought at work and strip the fun out of activities we once loved when we were nimble. Work From Home (WFH) implementations did us no favours either, setting us on the path of a sedentary lifestyle where most of us inevitably picked up some bad habits.

From craning our necks while using our phones to slouching on our couches as if our spines were jelly, we ought to correct these seven common mistakes that cause back pain before transforming into the Hunchback of Notre Dame. We’ve also included quick fixes so you can prevent bouts of recurring pain that’ll niggle at you for weeks to come.


1. Sleeping on a mattress that’s too soft or too hard


girl lying on bed clutching her back

There’s no better feeling than plonking on the bed and getting that much-deserved beauty sleep after a gruelling day of work. But if you’re waking up in the morning plagued by a sore back, the beloved mattress that you’re laying on might very well be the cause of your woes. 

Sleeping on mattresses that are as soft as marshmallows causes you to sink into the bed, meaning there’s no proper support to help you maintain the neutral alignment of your spine. Conversely, a mattress that’s too firm is unable to conform to your body’s curvature. This exerts extra pressure on certain areas of your back, causing discomfort that makes you toss and turn. 

girl sleeping on lister sobakawa pillowLister’s Sobakawa Pillow is a comfortable option that supports your head, neck and spine alignment.

To alleviate any strain on your back, you can use pillows as pillars of elevation to maintain your spine’s alignment. Place a pillow under your knees when you’re lying on your back, or tuck a bolster in between your knees when you’re laying on your side. That childhood chou chou you’ve been keeping all these years will come in handy!


2. Squatting and planking with the wrong form


squatting with a neutral backTo help maintain that flat, non-extended back, visualise sitting on an imaginary bench when descending.

Whether you’re hitting the gym or following a YouTube workout from home, the two holy grail exercises that never fail to find their way into fitness routines are squats and planks. While you’re busy hustlin’ away for your fitspo bod, make sure to keep your form in check – these exercises can place unnecessary pressure on your back if not done correctly.

When you’re doing squats, make sure that your feet are firmly planted on the floor, your abs are braced, and your back is tight. If you forgo even one of these cues, you could put added stress on the lumbar spine of your lower back. This is especially dangerous for those propping a loaded barbell on their back, as the extra weight will undoubtedly do a number on your spine.

planking with a neutral back, common back pain mistakes

Similarly for planking, having your butt shoot up during your set is an absolute no-no – it defeats the purpose of this core exercise by shifting the tension to your lumbar spine. Instead, make sure your abs are tight and that you assume a ‘neutral’ position where your back is flat. Get a spotter to help you keep a lookout if there’s no mirror available.


3. Doing work on your bed or couch while working from home


girl slouching and doing work on bed, common back pain mistakes

It might be tempting to lounge on the couch or lay on our beds while working from home, but for the sake of not just your productivity but the health of your back, you really shouldn’t. Splaying awkwardly across the couch or bed means your back won’t have the adequate ergonomic support it needs throughout your 9-6 shift.

Not having a proper WFH setup with a designated desk and ergonomic chair leaves you vulnerable to slouching – meaning you’ll overstretch your spinal ligament and supporting spinal discs. If you’re craning your neck to stare at your devices as well, you’ll compound some pesky neck pains on top of your back problems.

comfortably doing work using lister productsLister’s Memory Foam Backrest and Cushion are ergonomically designed to disperse pressure from your back and give you crucial lumbar support while you work.

To help improve your back posture, sit upright on a chair and adjust its height so that your feet rest naturally on the floor. Consider investing in a laptop stand too, so you can elevate your screen to reach eye level and eliminate neck pains. 


4. Carrying heavy objects too far away from you when you lift


carrying heavy parcels too far away from your body, common back pain mistakes

Whether you’re carrying bulky delivery parcels or heavy crates of equipment at work, keeping the right posture is crucial to make sure you don’t injure your back. Since these boxes usually don’t have protruding handles, we subconsciously end up stretching our hands forward and holding the weight too far away from our bodies – a common way to over-strain our backs.

Carrying the load further from our body is counter-intuitive – it forces our back muscles to carry most of the weight and exerts excess stress onto the back, which can cause a slipped disc or hernia in a worst case scenario. 

lifting boxes off the ground with the right posture

To lift your items safely, make sure to always hold the weight at belly button level and as close to your body as possible. Adopt a squatting position to lower your body before grabbing the object – avoid curving your back and bending down as you’ll be putting your spine in a precarious position.

And when loads get too heavy or awkwardly-shaped to handle, make sure to enlist the help of others in the vicinity to port the object to your desired destination. Throwing technique out of the window and relying on brute strength could end up in a serious, lifelong injury.


5. Always slinging your bag on the same side


slinging bag on one side, common back pain mistakes

Though our backpacks are equipped with two straps, some of us stubbornly choose to sling a single strap over one of our shoulders instead. In the same vein, ladies make the same mistake when they lug their hefty handbags only on their dominant shoulder instead of alternating between the two.

This causes the oft-used shoulder to round forward, stretching your neck and upper back muscles in the process. And if your bag’s brimming with a bulky laptop and other going-out essentials, you’ll naturally tire your back muscles out and adopt a curved posture.

carrying a tote bag that is too heavy, common back pain mistakes

A rule of thumb is that the weight of your bag’s contents shouldn’t exceed 10% of your total body weight. Your bag should sit snugly on your shoulders without any apparent muscle tension. It’s also worth alternating sides every now and then to avoid any muscle imbalances.


6. Sleeping away back pain for more than a few days


girl lying on pillow to sleep off existing back pains, common back pain mistakes

When we’re suffering from a bad spell of back pain, the only thing we want to do to escape the hurtin’ is to stay in bed and pray that the pain disappears miraculously after a few nights of slumber. Unfortunately for us, trying to sleep away back pain could result in an UNO reverse card and lead to the total opposite – making the sore spot feel way worse.

While it’s fine to rest your back with a quick lie-down to ease the pain, staying rooted to the bed for hours on end can cause stiffness and a lack of blood circulation. Try to slowly ease yourself back into low-impact activities to get the blood pumping, instead of leading the sedentary life on your bed.

Pro-tip: To hasten the healing process for your back pains, avoid all forms of BLT – bending, twisting and lifting – activities while you’re recuperating so you don’t exacerbate your condition. For direct relief, consider using Lister’s Massage Guns to get rid of any throbbing pains that your back might be riddled with. 


7. Slouching in the MRT while using your phone


two people slouching in the mrt to use phone, common back pain mistakes

The biggest win is managing to chope a seat during our daily commute on public transport. But we’ve got to start using the backrest of our seats more, because slouching forward while using our phones is a terrible habit that can set off an avalanche of side effects like chronic back, neck and shoulder pains, and even a piercing headache. 

Dubbed the ‘smartphone slouch’ or ‘text neck’, craning our heads to stare at our phones puts an obscene amount of weight on our spines. A mere 15° tilt of your head forward puts roughly 12KG of force on the spine, and this pressure increases to a whopping 27KG when tilted by 60° – a hefty amount of pressure which your spine should not be burdened with.

To make sure you’re not overloading your back, be mindful of your head’s posture whenever you’re sitting down. Instead of slouching to get closer to your device’s screen, raise the phone level just a little closer to your face to prevent your neck from tilting too far forward.


Relieve your back pain dilemmas with Lister


one guy using lister massage gun on another girl

While we all rue the inconvenience that comes with those dastardly back aches, chances are, we ourselves are the architects of our own demise when we commit any of these seven common mistakes that cause back pain.

Just so you’re adequately equipped to combat a recurring spell of back pain, check out the slew of offerings from local sport accessory brand Lister to rid yourself of those dreaded aches.

a full range of lister products

Specialising in quality fitness and wellness products, Lister has an extensive range of back relief products that’s tailored to all sorts of lifestyles. 

For starters, get your spinal posture sorted through the night when you sleep on their Sobakawa Buckwheat Pillow ($99). It comfortably contours to your body shape and supports your spine so you won’t have to worry about waking up sore again. The pillow is also durable enough to last a whole decade, making it a wise investment to help you sleep pain-free till 2030. 

lister car massager head and backThe Head ($40) and Back ($55) components of Lister’s Car Massager can be obtained separately, so you can customise your set however you’d like.

Staying in a static seating position for too long is less than ideal for your posterior health, but some of us have no choice if we’re constantly on the road. If that’s the case, decking out the driver’s seat with Lister’s Car Massager will be perfect – it simulates an artificial five-finger massage to relieve any stiffness and pains while driving. 

lister massage gun with multiple heads

You’ll also be able to up the comfort game of your WFH chairs with Lister’s Memory Foam Cushions. Made from bamboo charcoal, you can get their Backrest ($40) and Seat Cushion ($40) to give your back the support it needs while you toil at work. It’s also odourless so you won’t have to worry about any sweat build-up that accumulate with prolonged usage.

Fun fact: Lister’s T-Pro Massage Gun ($369) is a device that’s used by our Little red dot’s military personnel. If that isn’t testament enough to the product’s efficacy, the massage guns also come with five interchangeable heads to specifically target the different areas of soreness that are dispersed all over the body.

You can browse Lister’s full range of products on their website, Lazada, Shopee and Qoo10 if you’d prefer to make your purchase online. If you’re keen on getting your hands on one of their pain relievers immediately, you’ll want to head on down to the Punggol SAFRA SAF E-Mart to test the products in-person*.

*Note: Certain products and models are exclusively available online.

While we have the privilege of Lister’s range of back pain relief products at our disposal, let’s continue to be mindful of our own habits so we don’t subconsciously put added pressure on our backs while going about our daily routine. After all, we only have one spine – and putting it through wear and tear will only manifest in the form of persistent aches.

Check out Lister’s full range of products here


This post was brought to you by Lister.
Photography by Clement Sim.