Sitting is one of the main culprits in aggravating any lower back pain, placing unnecessary pressure on your lower vertebrae, which can lead to many health problems. Luckily, the most common cause of this problem is sitting at a desk chair or spending many hours working while stuck at an office job.
By following this guide on what to do if you experience pain from sitting too long, you’ll learn how to both manage and prevent lower back pain while sitting.
What Causes Lower Back Pain When Sitting
There are many factors that may contribute to your back pain when you are sitting. If this is something you have experienced, continue reading to learn some of the most common ways to reduce the discomfort caused by those activities.
Back pain can keep you from sitting at your desk for too long. But conditions caused by an untreated ailment can make it hard to even get into a sitting position, or worsen your pain. If any of the following are true, be sure to broach the subject with a neurologist or spine specialist:
Sciatica is a condition caused by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body. It runs from each side of the spinal column through the buttocks down to each of the legs, providing feeling through all parts below that specific point on either side. The pain would be felt as a radiating sensation from this spot up through to your lower extremities - affecting both sides of your body if experienced bilaterally.
Herniated discs are caused by gradual wear and tear on the back, which finally leads to a painful pinched nerve. Sitting is especially uncomfortable, and can lead to decreased muscle strength and nerve damage.
Strained back muscles are the most common type of muscle strain, and can lead to pain, swelling, and muscle spasms.
Spinal stenosis is an ailment that may be uncomfortable, but also not serious, and more common in older adults. In short, this condition occurs over time when the organs in the lower part of your spinal cord grow too large and squeeze the nerves nearby with their growth.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Life without a good cushioning between your vertebrae can ultimately lead to increased stiffness and pain in your lower back. In some cases, the inflammation may be severe enough to even cause sudden numbness while sitting or moving after being seated. This loss of flexibility is due to the gradual compression of disk material inside your intervertebral disk space, which can lead to a condition that involves degeneration of this disk over time with age.
Poor Sitting Posture
Our sitting position has a tremendous physical effect on our health. If we’re in the same position for several hours at a time, our body is under a lot of stress, and there are real effects on the musculature.
The lower back suffers the most. Chronic bad posture can malform the vertebrae, causing permanent issues and sometimes serious chronic pain with back problems in later life // We need to be more aware of what we do, but how long we’re doing it for. If you sit all day, it doesn’t matter if you have perfectly aligned posture, because it will still put unnecessary strain on certain areas of your body. When at home or work, make sure you get up from your desk and move around, stretch.
Exercising daily will also help prevent backs from being over stressed during prolonged periods of being sat or lying down, as well as help relieve any existing pains/aches/discomfort/headaches etc.
To prevent lower back pain from becoming a problem, remember to keep these 5 factors in mind if you spend a lot of time at your desk:
1. Rolled or Hunched Shoulders
The result of slouching is a reduction in the size of discs, which then squeeze together, causing spinal bones to poke out. Further, the disc contents leak into nerves and cause pain and numbness in the arms. By decreasing the pressure on your spine, you can help prevent herniated discs or alleviate back pain caused by spinal stenosis. Make sure you sit upright, with your back firmly against the chair's backrest (if you're upholstered).
2. Looking Down too Much
Our necks are designed to stay flexible, allowing us to look up, down, and sideways easily. We do this with our necks every day, without even thinking about it. However, keeping the neck bent for too long can not only be detrimental from a health standpoint, but also from an aesthetic perspective. Remember to maintain a neutral position while sitting in your workspace at home or work!
3. Elbows Placed too Far From Body
It's common these days to spend a lot of time sitting while doing work. Keeping your arms in an awkward position over an extended period can really take a toll on the health of your back, so it is important to take some precautions to ensure you do not go on harming yourself gradually over time. The best way to ensure you don't hurt your back even further once strained is to practice good posture when it comes down to sitting. Studies have shown that keeping the right posture can prevent further injuries, because bones, ligaments, and joints typically heal faster than muscles once damaged.
4. Leaning too Far Forward
Forcing your back muscles to support additional weight when leaning forward can create spinal misalignment, which can exacerbate back pain or lead to a pinched nerve. The most comfortable position for your back and the vertebrae inside it is sitting upright with your lower back against the back of your chair.
5. Crossing Your Arms, Knees, or Ankles
Crossing your arms and legs for extended periods, such as sitting at a desk all day, may cause various health consequences. In fact, doing 2 hours of this posture can cut off blood supply to the inner organs and increase pain in the back, shoulders, and neck - even if you are not aware of it. Whether working at a computer or sitting for long periods at a restaurant where chairs may not be designed with ergonomics in mind, you deserve better than that! To keep yourself healthy AND comfortable, try placing both feet flat on the floor, while keeping both arms straight along the sides of your body. Doing so will help you maintain your position without straining those muscles!
Being Overweight or Out of Shape
Being overweight is almost becoming an epidemic nowadays due to the standard of living. Carrying extra weight places additional stress on the back, and can even tilt it over time. This can lead to many long-term health conditions, like sciatica and herniated discs. If you carry extra weight, weight loss and strengthening the back muscles is one healthy way to prevent lower back pain, helping properly support your body while sitting down or standing up.
How You're Holding Your Phone
Holding your phone to your ear during long conversations can put a lot of pressure on the neck and shoulder area, which can lead to tension headaches, nausea and even lower back pain. It's important to take breaks from holding the phone up to your ear when you engage in longer conversations. You can either switch hands or use a headset or speakerphone to avoid straining yourself.
Tips to Reduce Lower Back Pain When Sitting
If your job or regular day-to-day activities require long periods of sitting, there are some steps you can take to prevent, manage and reduce lower back pain.
Take Regular Short Breaks from Sitting
As an entrepreneur, you’re likely spending more than four hours a day sitting and working at a desk. This easily builds tension in your lower back, which can lead to serious pain in the future if not addressed early on. Take some time off every hour or two by standing up for a minute or two. You might think this is unnecessary, but it will help stretch out your muscles and relieve tension that has built up in your daily life.
Stretch and Exercise Regularly
Chances are you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk each day. If sitting for prolonged periods is inevitable for you, here's how to lower the harmful effects this has on your heart and overall health: stretching frequently throughout the day can help offset the negative impacts of being sedentary regularly. Additionally, you should ensure your back is strong enough to support your upper body by practicing targeted exercises, while also performing other simple stretches that focus on your core.
Use Heat and Ice
Back pain resulting from poor posture while seated may respond well to either hot or cold therapy. Apply heat or ice (or a combination) to areas of tension and discomfort after a long day at the office.
Back pain can be crippling, especially if you spend a lot of your time sitting in front of the computer. Back pain will fade with time, but there are things you can do right away to help relieve some discomfort - and one of them is using a herbal heating pad.
For your lower back pain, ice and heat provide two different approaches for finding relief. While both agents have their own place in treatment, neither should be applied continuously, as it could lead to reduced effectiveness or side effects if your routine is not careful enough. To learn more about when you should use ice and when you should use heat for your lower back pain, check out our complete guide!
Take time to massage your tight areas as soon as you notice them. If you don’t, this muscular tension could cause imbalances in the body, lead to poor posture and worsening back pain. There are many methods of massage therapy, whether professional or self-massage, that can increase blood flow, remove muscle knots, and loosen up stiff muscles in your body.
When to Seek Professional Help
Back pain can be serious indeed. If you have severe back pain or nothing alleviates the pain that's fairly consistent, then it's a good idea to seek medical help from a doctor who specializes in back issues. See your doctor, and they will recommend appropriate treatments for your symptoms. They may prescribe pain medication, place you on special therapy programs. Physical therapists and chiropractors may also help alleviate some pain if your doctor suggests it.