5 Effective Tips to Beat Back Pain
I'm sure you are familiar with the drill; you sit down at your desk for a day of work, juggling the many emails, tasks and productivity that you have on your to do lists for the day. An hour or two into the day you feel the familiar creep of pain that starts in your back and begins to build, clawing for attention to do something about it. “Not already” You think, usually we have a morning reprieve before the agony sets in by early afternoon.
As much of our professional lives are now at desks engaging our brains, eyes and hands in creative work or critical thinking, it’s easy to forget about the effect of long periods of sitting on our bodies and particularly our spine. You may of heard of the saying “sitting is the new smoking” and while I’m sure it’s not linked to anywhere near as many diseases as smoking is, the meaning behind it is that sitting is the new thing everyone is doing without realising how detrimental it is to your health. For example the American Heart Association has advised people to sit less and move/stand more to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Chairs as we know them didn’t really become used widely until the 18th century. Before then people sat on whatever was around like a bench or barrel, the floor or in a full squat - the traditional human eating and working position. The mechanics of chair sitting is also very unfamiliar for the structure of our human body. The hips stay at 90 degrees, an unusual angle for them to be in and bear weight for long periods. Studies have shown that the discs in the spine bear 4 times the compressional load in a sitting position compared to a standing position in addition to the muscles of our back fatiguing much faster.
So what can we do about our aching back, apart from quitting our jobs and joining the travelling circus? As an Osteopath I see this people for this problem everyday, and over time I have been able to isolate the most simple and effective ways of reducing the stress of sitting on our back that we can put into place to both prevent back pain or ease it once it has started.
Sit all the way back in your chair
Really wedge you bottom in the corner between the seat and back rest as much as you can. Leave no space between your bottom and the back rest. This is prevent your pelvis from rolling back as you get tired, and it’s very difficult to slump in this position.
Take Regular breaks
Usually 30 minutes is enough sitting time if your back is sore. A quick 2 minute walk to complete a quick task enough to get your back moving and you are ready for another short stint. If we sit beyond postural muscle fatigue, our spine will be more likely to experience stress on the joints and ligaments predisposing to pain and injury.
Move your spine more
Do more activity that gets your spine moving in every direction possible. Unfortunately walking just doesn’t move our back enough if we sit all day. It doesn’t even have to be a stretch, just to move it helps immensely.
Stretch your hip flexors
The sitting position has our hips in a position that shortens our hip flexor muscles, and over time these become tight. This can cause our pelvis to be tilted further forward when standing, which in turn loads more weight on the joints our our lower back resulting in pain and stiffness. Stretching our hips into a lunging stretch every day is an affective way to counteract the effect of sitting on our hips. It improves out posture. For best effect do this lunging stretch in loose stretchy pants.
Bring your mouse and keyboard in closer to you
Many people find themselves reaching out to their mouse and keyboard. Bring it in close, so that you can use them with your elbows by your side. This will help take the stress out of your neck.
And finally if these measures don’t resolve your pain, check in with a health professional who is experienced in treating the back. A little treatment and management can go a long way to getting you feeling better, moving better and happier at work! If you have any questions, on of our Osteopaths at Southside Wellbeing are willing to help. We offer a 15 minute complementary phone consultation, or please send us an email.
Dr Corey Dyer is a practicing Osteopath with over 20 years of clinical experience. He works primarily with gentle techniques with a focus on individualised treatment that optimises health. A former gymnast/dancer he has a strong interest in movement practices and food as medicine for wellbeing and recovery. He is also a teacher/educator in Osteopathic learning and other health modalities.