Do you notice your back aches after sitting for an extended period of time? Is the pain constant that it affects your ability to function? Well, you are not alone. Chronic back pain is one of the most common reasons why people seek medical help. However, not all people realize the connection between sitting for long hours and back pain.
Sitting for too long causes pressure on your back and tension in your neck, which lead to back pain. This does not only applies when you are working long hours and sitting at your office desk. It also applies when you are sitting in the car or at home doing chores for an extended period.
There are a lot of reasons why you experience back pain while sitting, and to tell you frankly, most of these reasons are caused by you. Let us say that this type of pain caused by sitting is self-inflicted. Luckily, there are also a lot of different ways you can prevent and alleviate back pain.
Why does my back hurt when I’m sitting?
According to studies, back pain can be attributed to postural stress when sitting for too long. The prolonged position causes strain and pressure on our back, neck, and lumbar discs. We are putting as much as 90% more pressure on our back when we sit vs. when we stand. Unfortunately, this bad habit usually goes unnoticed due to our busy schedules.
We all have this natural tendency to slouch when we sit. Slouching is a sign of bad posture. It causes pressure and stress on your spine. If it happens habitually, the pressure on your lumbar disc wall increases, which alter its S form into a C shape. The imbalance and misalignment of the vertebrae trigger nerve irritation especially when it happens frequently and in long periods of time.
Nerve irritation caused by pinched nerves, overstretching of nerve ligaments, and the sliding of vertebrae either forwards of backward are just some of the effects of sitting with improper posture. This excessive strain on your spinal discs should be avoided to prevent chronic back pain and other serious health problems. One surprisingly simple way to avoid this problem is by paying attention to your posture.
Common Posture Mistakes
Posture is the way you position or hold your body while sitting, standing, and doing your daily activities such as bending, reaching, pushing and pulling, and lifting objects. A good posture means that the bones in your spinal column are entirely balanced and aligned. If you pay attention to your posture, the least strain is placed on the ligaments that hold your spine together and its surrounding muscles when performing tasks.
However, it is understandable that we fail to pay close attention to our posture when we are too caught up with work and other activities. We only start to notice when we feel that dull ache on our back that seems to nag us.
Is there a way we can train our body to sit, walk, stand, lie, and perform weight-bearing tasks that puts the least strain on our spine? What are these common posture mistakes that we seem to commit every day inevitably and how do we prevent them?
1. Your head looks down and tips forward
Your head weighs approximately 10 lbs. When you are looking down at your monitor screen, writing on your desk, or using your phone, your head is at an angle that puts pressure on your neck and upper back. The further your head is tipped forward, the more you are straining the muscles of your neck and back.
This is a typical posture mistake that we are all guilty of committing on a daily basis. We only notice this when we feel pain and pressure on our neck that goes all the way down to our shoulders and upper back.
2. Your shoulders are rolling forward
We do not normally practice proper posture when we are just chilling on our couch at home while enjoying our favorite TV show, Unfortunately, aside from failing to do so, soft chairs like your couch does not provide enough lumbar support for your back. This causes an imbalance to your spine, altering the original S form into a C shape.
A good sitting position when using a soft chair that lacks lumbar support is to sit up with your back straight and shoulders back while distributing your body weight equally on both of your hips. Stand up and walk around for several minutes when you can. This can help avoid back pain.
3. You lean forward from your lower back or slouching
As mentioned, slouching is a sign of bad posture and a common posture mistake we are all guilty of committing. Whether we are relaxing at home or busy doing office work, slouching is a habit that we unconsciously do that brings tension in our neck, shoulders, and back.
When this becomes a chronic habit, it can lead to spinal damage and other health issues such as respiratory problems because of the inability to breathe deeply. Once you notice that you are slouching or leaning forward from your lower back, quickly correct your sitting position to avoid compressing your vertebrae discs.
4. Your elbows are far away from the body
You might have noticed that whenever you are lifting objects, you move your elbow away from your torso. The thing is, the heavier or bigger the object is, the further you have to move your elbows, and the more strain you are putting on your shoulders and upper back.
It may not seem like a big deal when you have to move objects from one place to another. However, doing it for long periods of time without practicing good posture will undoubtedly take its toll on your spine.
5. You hold your phone to your ears
If you love to multitask, you are indeed guilty of committing this posture mistake of bending your neck sideways to your shoulder to hold your phone to your ear while your hands are busy doing something else. Maybe it is not a big deal when doing this just for a few seconds or minutes a day, but for those whose jobs require to talk on the phone while multitasking, this can cause tension and imbalance to one side of the neck.
6. You are sitting for too long
If you still haven’t heard, sitting can kill you faster than smoking does. It’s about time that you understand the consequences of sitting for too long so you can live a long and happy life. Humans are designed to move around. The more sedentary your lifestyle is, the more you are risking your health.
Do not sit for too long. Take a break and walk around after 30 minutes of sitting or move and change your position. This will keep oxygen and nutrients flowing to your body as you prevent chronic back pain. Look into home office gym equipment to help you stay active. A good way to keep yourself accountable is to get a smartwatch as well that’ll give you a notification on when to do some type of activity.
How to Ease Your Lower Back Pain?
There are a lot of ways you can ease back pain. You can try different solutions to find out what works for you and your schedule. Some great suggestions that we can offer you to try are the following:
- Change position every 30 minutes. We have mentioned this already, but it is worth repeating over and over again. This simple strategy can go a long way in easing your lower back pain.
- Try a new activity. Keeping an active lifestyle is not only healthy for your body, but it also helps relieve back pain if you are suffering from it already. Yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi are some of the very healthy exercise activities can you try to help ease your lower back pain. These activities are great core strengtheners so it’s not just a good way to ease your back, but prevent future issues too.
- Get a massage. A massage can relieve muscle tensions, knots, and your overall stress. However, if you are suffering from chronic back pain, it is best that you seek help from a professional as a regular massage can do more damage than good.
- Seek professional help. Your treatment depends on the severity of your condition. Seek professional help when you need it. Do not delay or ignore your pain.
- Use ergonomic pieces of furniture that encourage you to move or stand.
Although it is ill-advised to treat yourself at home when you are already suffering from chronic back pain, there are still some simple strategies you can do at home to help you relieve some back pain. However, before you do anything, make sure you seek professional help first to avoid causing more damage to your back that could potentially be irreversible.
Some home treatments include:
- A cold or warm compress. A heating or cooling pad can help soothe your muscles and relieve some tension in your back.
- Use a medium firm mattress when you sleep. Like soft couches, soft mattresses do not provide enough support for the body and could even cause more damage to your back.
- Practice good posture at home. When your body gets used to sitting, standing, walking, sleeping, and doing activities correctly, it becomes a healthy habit that you can take with you anywhere you go.
Alternative treatment includes traditional therapies and medicines. This is an option to try if you have mild or acute back pain.
- Acupuncture and acupressure. The only difference between these two alternative therapies is that acupuncture practitioners use needles on the pressure points while acupressure practitioners target the Chi points using fingers and elbows.
- Herbal treatments. Although it is “herbal” which we consider natural and healthy, it is still best to ask your doctor before taking anything. Do your research because there are medications that could potentially interfere with other medicines you are taking.
Once your back pain becomes chronic, seek professional help immediately. Do not resort to home remedies and alternative treatments. Medical professionals have to assess the severity of your condition to be able to provide the right treatment approach.
Diagnosis includes x-rays and MRI or CT scans, blood tests, and electromyography to examine your nerves. The results of these tests determine the treatment and medications. The doctor may prescribe you with specific activities and physical therapy to strengthen your core, and drugs that can either be topical or ingested.
Other measures may also include injections and lower doses of certain antidepressants. You will be educated on how to manage your pain and ways you can prevent further injuries. Surgery may be required for severe cases.
Products that may help
Get a standing desk – If your back pain is being caused by sitting long hours, then it might be a good idea to pick up a standing desk to help you stay active. There are plenty of options that ranged from electric standing desks to standing desk converters (which can be a great option if you don’t want to switch out your current desk set up).
Get a truly ergonomic chair – Make sure your chair is actually ergonomic, where there’s good padding in areas that’ll help your posture, to help ease the pain on your lower back. You’ll also want to make sure that the chair can be fully adjusted and set for your specific body type. Knowing that you have the right chair will go a very long way and your body will thank you.
Use an inversion table – A great way to decompress your spine is to set up an inversion table at home. There are a lot of studies supporting that the use of inversion tables can get rid of back pain dramatically.
Install a keyboard tray – Sometimes your keyboard is sitting on your desk in an awkward position that’ll force you to slouch. Installing an ergonomic keyboard tray can help with adjusting the height and angle independently from your desktop or monitors. This can help in your goal of getting a good posture and minimize pain both sitting or standing.
Get monitor arms – Being able to adjust your monitor can help with your posture and ensure that you’re sitting correctly with the right monitor to eye level ratio. In addition, it can help with getting you the correct distance from the monitor screen to have optimal ergonomics.
Sitting too long does not only cause back pain, but it also leads to other chronic health problems such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and even cancer. Now that you discovered the cause of your back pain and learned that it is mostly self-inflicted, you will be able to prevent it from becoming worse or try ways on how to treat or alleviate the pain.
Chronic back pain can be prevented by consciously avoiding the common posture mistakes and practicing good posture habits every day. It is also important to remind yourself to get up and move once in a while even in the middle of a busy workday. And when back pain becomes unmanageable that home and alternative remedies do not work and you lose the ability to function, it is best that you seek professional help immediately to address the problem and avoid irreversible damage to your spine.