3 years ago

How To Avoid Back Pain From Sitting - 6 Tips & Tricks 

Sitting down for extended periods of time can be a nightmare for your back, so learn how to avoid the back pain that is so common while sitting with these handy tips.

how to avoid back pain from sitting

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If you work in an office or spend any amount of time sitting down each day, then there is a high chance that you'll experience lower back pain.

This is because when you sit down your body remains inactive.

And this causes your core muscles and spinal discs to weaken over time, meaning your back will have less support and be placed under greater pressure and strain.  

So, if you have to sit down for a few hours each day then you are at risk.

As that time sat at your computer or doing paperwork can take a massive toll on your back if you're not careful.

But don't despair.

Because there are things you can do to minimise the impact of all that sitting, which I'll go through here.

And by employing a few of these techniques, your back will become happier and healthier as a result.

Why Does Sitting Cause Back Pain?

Our bodies are designed to move, so we need to make sure we move around to keep our muscles and joints healthy and functioning.

However, when you are sat down your body remains inactive, and this can cause it to weaken and deteriorate.

And this usually results in lower back pain. 

But what is it exactly that makes sitting down for a few hours at a time so dangerous for their backs?

Well it basically boils down to three factors:

  • Your vertebrae in your spine become compressed as you sit, which can lead to a weakening of your spinal discs over time.
  • When you sit down for a few hours at a time your core muscles remain inactive and weaken, meaning they can't give your back the support it needs.
  • Many of us tend to sit in an unhealthy posture which increases the pressure and strain on your lower back. 

All of these things combined will mean your back will be placed under far more pressure as you sit, while also receiving less support.

And sitting for long periods can also cause you to develop an unhealthy posture when you're not sitting too.

Which means your back remains under pressure outside of the chair too.

So if you have to sit for more than an hour each day, you need to learn the ways to minimise it's impact on the health of your back.

Click here to find out more about why sitting causes back pain.

How To Avoid Back Pain While Sitting

It's all well and good knowing the pitfalls of sitting and why it causes back pain.

But what you really need to know is how you can stop it.

And while the obvious solution would be to get off your backside and stop sitting down so much, this isn't possible for everyone.

As many jobs require us to sit down constantly.

However, even if you do have to sit down for most of the day at work, there are certain good habits you can get into that will minimise it's impact on your back.

And help you to sit in more comfort and less pain.

So I'll run through our top 6 tips for doing that now.

1. Take Microbreaks Every Hour

The negative effects from sitting come from spending long periods in the same position and not getting enough movement in your body.

However, one way around this is by taking a microbreak from your chair every hour.

As just 5-10 minutes out of your seat each hour is enough to break up the effects of sitting and keep your body on the right track.

But just standing up and making yourself a coffee isn't enough.

Instead you need to make sure you mobilise your body during these breaks to get the blood flowing again and to awaken your dormant muscles.

And a good way to do this is by going through a stretching routine or taking a short walk around your workspace.

I've added the video above to give you some ideas of movements and stretches you can perform on a microbreak.

And to make sure you never forget to stop for a microbreak (this is so easy to do!),  I'd recommend setting an alarm on your phone to go off once every hour.

This way you'll always stay on top of things and get into good habits more easily.

2. Stretch Regularly

Regular stretching is an absolutely vital part of managing your back pain and keeping your body healthy.

And it's even more important to do if you have to sit down for a few hours each day.

Because when you sit your muscles remain inactive, which causes them to become tighter and constricted.

And this not only causes pain, it can also lead to muscle imbalances developing, which force your body into a hunched and unhealthy posture that adds pressure onto your lower back.

Bad news!

However, getting into the habit of stretching your whole body regularly will lengthen and strengthen your muscles instead.

Which will keep them loose, healthy, and able to support and take the pressure off your back as you sit.

And this will also:

  • Increase your overall flexibility, making your body more balanced and able to distribute pressure evenly as you sit..
  • Improve your posture, relieving pressure on your spine.
  • Increase your circulation, so your muscles get the oxygen and nutrients they need to heal and repair.

All of which mean less strain on your back and less pain.

For an idea of which stretches you can do check out the video above from Fitness Blender.

3. Maintain A Healthy Sitting Posture

It's really important to maintain a healthy posture as you sit to take the pressure off your lower back.

As the problem for so many of us is that we've gotten into some really bad sitting habits.

Which mean we sit with a slumped and hunched posture that is a disaster for our backs.

And if you sit with an unhealthy 'C' curve in your spine it throws your back and neck out of alignment, which adds pressure and strain onto your back, neck, and shoulders.

However, if you learn how to sit with a more natural and healthy 'S' curve in your spine instead you can relieve this pressure.

And some tips on how to do this are included in the video above.

These include:

  • Keeping your feet flat on the ground and making sure your knees are bent at a 90 degree angle.
  • Maintaining a slight arch in your lower back rather than letting it flatten against the chair.
  • Setting up your workstation so you can keep your head up by looking ahead at the screen rather than down.
  • Not slouching or leaning forward as you work.

Also other things can help you maintain a healthy sitting posture such as using an adjustable ergonomic desk chair with built in lumbar support or a lumbar support cushion.

And maintaining a healthy posture as you sit is not just good for getting rid of back pain, as it will also:

  • Improve your breathing, which helps your body to relax and relieve stress and tension in the muscles.
  • Balance your body so that the pressure and strain is divided equally rather than overloading your lower back.
  • Improve your mood and mental performance, so it's good for productivity too!

So next time you are sat behind a desk try to become aware of your posture.

4. Stay Active

Staying active is the best thing you can do to maintain a strong and healthy back.

And this has been shown time and time again in scientific studies.

For instance one such study found that people with chronic back pain that exercised for 30 minutes to a moderate intensity 3-4 times per week experienced less pain, better range of motion, improved mood, and greater overall well-being.

Which is a pretty good advertisement for staying active!

And it's a great thing to do because it:

  • Strengthens your muscles, which provides more support for your lower back.
  • Increases your body's flexibility, which will result in less muscle pain and tightness.
  • Improves your circulation, which will help your sore muscles to heal.
  • Releases endorphins, which make you feel happy and work as the body's natural painkiller.

So which kind of exercise should you be doing?

I've put together a list of 9 activities that work for people with back pain to give you an idea of where to start.

But as a rule of thumb you need a mix of the following:

Because having a good balance of these in your weekly routine will give your back the best chance to stay fit, healthy, strong, and pain-free.

5. Use An Ergonomic Desk Chair

A big cause of lower back pain in the office is when you are forced to use a crappy, cheap, one size fits all desk chair.

As not only are these chairs uncomfortable and lacking in support.

They also force you to sit with an unhealthy posture that adds so much pressure and strain onto your spine.

Which is a disaster and can make each day at work a tortuous experience.

So if that sounds familiar you should consider upgrading to an ergonomic office chair instead.

As these chairs are designed to be fully adjustable (height, seat, arms, tilt angle) so you can fine tune it to fit your body and workstation like a glove.

Which will help relieve the pressure on your body.

And they also come with built in lumbar support that will help you to maintain a good posture throughout the day.

Some additional benefits include:

  • Taking the strain off your back, neck, and shoulders.
  • Keeping your core muscles active while you sit.
  • Allowing you to sit in greater comfort throughout the day.

So I'd thoroughly recommend getting an ergonomic office chair if you spend a lot of time behind a desk.

And a great one to use is the Ergohuman High-Back Swivel Chair.

As this one has great lumbar support, good pressure relieving qualities, and a high back and optional head rest to relieve strain on your neck and shoulders too.

Click here to find out more about ergonomic office chairs.

6. Use A Sit/Stand Desk

As you are aware by now, sitting down for long periods of time is not a great idea.

However, changing position regularly throughout the day can really help.

So things like stretching at your desk, taking microbreaks, and going for a little walk are all great ways to break up the sitting.

And another way to do this that is trendy right now is by using a standing desk.

Because if you don't have to sit at all then it's problem solved right?

However, the bad news here is that standing all day can be just as bad for you as sitting because it:

  • Puts extra strain on your muscles and joints.
  • Causes muscle fatigue in your legs and lower limbs, meaning your back gets less support and comes under greater pressure.
  • Can be a cause of long-term lower back pain.

So it seems like you just can't win eh?

However a solution to this problem is to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.

As in one study from 2011 it was found that office workers who alternated between a sitting and standing desk reduced their back and neck pain by 54% in 4 weeks.

Pretty impressive stats.

And this works because by mixing it up your muscles remain active and strong during periods of standing, yet don't suffer from fatigue or weakening as you can rest during periods of sitting.

Which not only helps your back stay healthy and pain-free, it can also:

  • Lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
  • Burn calories which reduces the risk of obesity.
  • Help to improve your mood.
  • Make you more productive.

So if that sounds good and you are interested in trying a sit/stand desk for yourself, I'd recommend checking out the Varidesk Height Adjustable Standing Desk.

As this desk has 11 different height settings so you can adjust it to the perfect height to suit you.

And for the best results aim to spend 20 minutes of standing following every 40 minutes of sitting to get the balance right.

Rounding Up

I hope this article has given you some ideas on how to counteract the negative effects of too much sitting for your back.

Because sitting all day is harder work than it looks.

As not only can it cause you to get back, neck and shoulder pain, it can also lead to far more serious health issues.

So try and get into some good sitting habits by:

  • Taking microbreaks every hour.
  • Stretching your body out regularly.
  • Maintaining a healthy sitting posture.
  • Staying active outside of the chair.
  • Sitting in an ergonomic office chair.
  • Alternating between sitting and standing by using a sit/stand desk.
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I'm a psychology graduate and a veteran of 5 spinal surgeries. I want to help people learn how to fight back against persistent back pain just like I have.

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