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Sitting and Low Back Pain

If you are like the millions of Americans who find themselves sitting behind a desk all day and fighting traffic both to and from work, chances are you may also be one of many dealing with back pain. Stiffness, dull aching, and pain when bending down to pick something up may be a part of your day that you’ve come to live with. No amount of adjusting in your chair seems to help alleviate the discomfort. So what causes this and what can you do to help alleviate it on your own? First we should note that not all back pain is the same. Here we are mainly discussing back pain related to being sedentary, but this pain could be caused by other factors such as lifting something heavy without proper form or a sudden twisting or jerking motion that your body was not prepared for. In these cases some of these tips may help while some cases may require seeking the help of a professional.

We have become a society of sitters. We sit in our cubicle or office for hours on end. We drive everywhere-more sitting-and when we’re home we are plopped down on the couch watching TV. This has a serious negative effect on our back and spine. First sitting produces about twice as much pressure on our discs as standing, and unfortunately we also tend to slouch which only increases this pressure. Additionally when we sit we put our hamstrings into a fixed position, which in turns allows them to tighten and reduces their range of motion. This causes reduced mobility in the hips and often a curve forward in the lumbar spine. When this inactivity continues for long periods of time it can lead to damage in the spinal structure and make back pain worse and worse. So what do you do when your job requires you be in the office all day long? Here are a few tips for fighting and staving off back pain from sitting:

  1. GET UP: Every 30 minutes or so stand up and walk around. Increased activity will help loosen the lower back muscles and alleviate pain.
  2. STRETCH: When you get up, take some time to lean down and touch your toes and then reach for the ceiling. Make a point to sit on your office floor and go through as many hamstring stretches as time allows ensuring your hamstrings don’t stiffen up on you.
  3. WATCH YOUR POSTURE: Don’t slouch! Sit up tall and keep your core tight. This will lessen the effects of being seated.
  4. GET A CHAIR THAT FITS: Make sure the chair you have at your desk is ideal for your height and has lower back support.
  5. STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE: Doing exercises for your core can improve posture and avoid other strains from carrying or lifting things up from the floor.
  6. FOAM ROLL AND MASSAGE: Sometimes you can develop a knot that can wreck havoc on your back. Foam rolling sore areas or having a massage may help loosen up and alleviate any pained caused by this.

Hopefully these tips will help you to avoid the common back pain issues that many deal with. Like with anything it’s about being consistent. If you only stretch every 3 weeks or only get up every 5 hours most likely you will not see a benefit from these tips. Taking care of yourself and being preventative and not reactive is the trick! Again, if you find that your back simply isn’t improving than it may be time to schedule and appointment and get checked out.