So, it turns out that sitting in a chair all day is bad for you — some are even calling sitting the new smoking. While that may be an exaggeration, sitting all day in an office chair can cause back pain in your lumbar spine, and craning forward to peer at a computer monitor all day can leave your neck, shoulders, and upper back sore and stiff.
There’s a lot you can do to stave off back pain related to sitting, though. Adjust your chair so that you can sit ergonomically, or try an alternative style of chair. Sit in the proper position, and use a lumbar pillow to help you maintain proper posture. Incorporate some exercises into your daily routine to stretch and strengthen your back — strengthening your back muscles will help prevent future episodes of back pain.
The most important thing you can do to relieve back pain from sitting is adjust your chair so that it’s giving your body the proper support. You should be able to sit up straight in your chair, with your lumbar spine supported by the curve of the chair itself or by a lumbar pillow. Adjust the height of your chair so that your feet are flat on the floor and your knees can bend at a 90-degree angle aligned with your ankles. Adjust your arm rests so that your shoulders are just slightly elevated when you place your arms on the arm rest.
You may also need to adjust your workstation so that you can sit with proper posture at your office job. Bring your computer screen closer to your face and adjust it so that you are looking straight ahead or slightly down at it, not craning your head upward. At home, avoid sitting on soft chairs and sofas that encourage you to round your back. Instead, choose high-backed, firm chairs.
Sitting with proper posture and the right lumbar support can make all the difference when it comes to relieving and preventing back pain. If you’re sitting in a chair that offers lumbar support, make sure your rear end is pressed firmly to the back of the chair, so that the lumbar support curve in the chair can push your lower back gently forward and correct your posture. Keep your spine straight and your shoulders aligned with your hips. Rest your arms on your armrests to keep your shoulders and neck from getting stiff and sore, especially while you’re working at your desk in the office.
If your chair doesn’t offer lumbar support, you’re going to need to get a lumbar pillow. Place the lumbar pillow at the small of your back, just above your hips, where your lumbar spine curves inward. To achieve correct posture while using a lumbar pillow, move to the edge of your chair, slouch over, and then draw yourself upright while exaggerating the curve in your back. Hold this position for a few seconds, then relax to an upright position. Scoot back in the chair with your buttocks touching the backrest and the lumbar pillow placed at the small of your back. Roll your shoulders backward and flatten your shoulder blades down your back to keep your neck and shoulders relaxed.
If you’re experiencing back pain from sitting, chances are you’ve strained the muscles in your back. You can treat back pain at home with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin or ibuprofen. If your back injury is fresh, reduce inflammation by icing the sore spot for 20 minutes every hour. Once the swelling goes down, you might find that hot, wet heat from a water bottle, hot tub, bath, or shower soothes the muscle soreness.
Back pain usually occurs when the core muscles that support the spine aren’t strong enough. If you’re experiencing chronic back pain, it might be helpful to see a doctor to rule out degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, bone spurs, sciatica, a herniated disc, or other physical problems that could be causing your back pain.
If your back pain is muscular in origin, it’s worth seeing a physical therapist to see which muscles are causing the problem. A doctor of physical therapy can assign you a home exercise regimen to strengthen your back and prevent future episodes of back pain. To treat back pain at home, do yoga poses like bird dog, bridge pose, or standing forward bend to stretch and strengthen the core muscles of your back.
Sitting can be so relaxing, but it can also be a source of pain and discomfort. Focus on keeping your back muscles strong so they can support your spine properly, and experience freedom from back pain.