In a recent post, we covered some important things to know about back pain caused by prolonged sitting. We went in-depth on many of the most common sources of sitting-related pain, including sciatica, muscle strains, herniated disks, spinal stenosis, and poor posture. All occur frequently in people who work in seated positions all day long. If you believe that long days of sitting may be the trigger of your lingering lower back pain, then you’ll appreciate this follow-up guide discussing how to fix it.
We’ve all heard sayings like “sitting is the new smoking,” and it’s time to take it seriously. Although we can’t banish chairs from our homes or offices—nor would we want to—we can do some things to help lessen the effect of long-term sitting. Here are some helpful ways to prevent and reduce the pain caused by a sedentary lifestyle.
1. Invest in a Supportive Chair – Studies show that chairs that prevent abnormal strain of the neuromuscular system can aid in the prevention of pain and discomfort. Choose a style that has a full back so you get support from the lumbar area to the shoulder blades. You’ll also want to choose furniture that’s adjustable in a number of different ways—seat height, arm height, tilt angle, etc.,—so that you can customize it to your personal anthropometrics. Here are some more things to keep in mind when choosing your office chair:
- Choose a chair that allows your feet to rest comfortably flat on the floor. If your chair is too high, lower it or use a footrest.
- Choose a chair that positions your thighs horizontally to your hips.
- Choose a chair with extra lumbar support to keep the spine straight.
- Consider a waterfall chair (a chair with a seat that curves downward) to reduce pressure on the back and thighs.
2. Create an Ergonomic Workspace – Ergonomics is the study of how a person’s work environment affects their productivity and physical health. By applying ergonomic principles to your workspace, you will be able to lessen the strain on your spine and lower back. Here are a few important tips for creating an ergonomic workspace that supports your low back:
- Use a sit-stand desk that lets you work in both positions throughout the day.
- Ensure that your keyboard is positioned in a way that keeps your elbows bent approximately 90 degrees and prevents shoulders from slumping.
- Position your computer screen at eye level so you aren’t straining to see it.
- Keep your mouse and phone closely within arm’s reach so you don’t have to strain or overextend your shoulder to reach them.
3. Try Laser Therapy – Even if you have the most ergonomic, supportive workspace, you may find that you’re still feeling sore or pained after a long day of sitting. At the end of a long workday, consider wearing a low-level laser therapy device to treat the pain. These devices temporarily relieve lower back pain associated with mild to moderate aches, muscle spasms, and inflammation. How does laser treatment help back pain? Read all about it to learn more.
4. Stretch Periodically – Be sure to take a few breaks throughout the day to walk around and stretch. Doing a few 10- or 15-minute stretching routines a few times per day can help keep your muscles flexible and limber so they don’t tense up or put undue strain on your spine. Some gentle activity will also help awaken the muscles and get your blood flowing. Set a reminder on your phone every couple of hours to remind yourself to get up, walk around, and stretch.
5. Work on Your Posture – Slouching causes your shoulders and spine to curve, which puts undue pressure on your back bones, muscles, and ligaments, leading to pain. Conversely, good posture keeps your spine in the proper alignment so the pressure is released. Doing posture-correcting stretches can help, and you may find some relief by wearing a posture corrector or setting daily reminders.
Although we all wish we didn’t have to sit for so long during the day, many of us don’t have the option to quit our job and enter a more active field. With that being said, there are some simple things you can do to lessen the blow of prolonged sitting. Following these tips will help prevent you from developing back pain and other health issues.