Back pain! You’ve probably faced it. Studies say that one in four adults experiences it in any three-month period, so you are not alone. My guess is, you’re very eager to know how to relieve back pain from sitting.
But to do that, first you have to know what causes it. The number one culprit behind back pain is poor posture. A good many of us spend our time hunched over our desks or behind computers. That’s most likely the source of your back pain woes.
If you doubt it, I have a brief but compelling explanation below for how sitting causes back pain. Read on to learn about that as well as the things you can do to relieve this condition.
How Sitting Causes Back Pain
Sitting sets the stage for lower back pain. Let me explain.
Your spine is made up of 33 vertebrae (small bony segments) separated by soft disks that hold them in place and absorb shock impulses. The lower part of your back, also known as the lumbar spine, only has five vertebrae.
Now, when you stand or lie down, the lower back region won’t be under too much strain, but as soon as you sit, more pressure is transferred to the discs and other parts around the lumbar spine, including tendons, nerves, and ligaments. That’s how the seed for back pain is planted.
Sitting down for a long period of time only makes this situation worse, leading to serious lower back pain. Even a correct posture or ergonomic office chair won’t save you from experiencing the consequences of prolonged sitting. If you’ve ever done a long car ride, you will relate to this.
Basically, that’s how sitting causes back pain, but it’s not the only culprit. There are a few other conditions that might be causing you to experience lower back pain when sitting and they include:
Degenerative Spine Disease
Degenerative spine disease occurs when discs between your vertebrae wear down or get damaged due to injury. It causes one to experience back pain when they sit down.
This condition results from a narrowed spinal canal. Your nerves won’t function well under such circumstances and this will cause you to feel back pain, especially when you sit. Spinal stenosis occurs due to old age, injuries, scoliosis, or arthritis.
Sciatica occurs when you have a condition that puts too much pressure on the sciatic nerve. As a result, you may feel some pain on one side of your body, and it could be anywhere between your spine and leg.
A herniated disk happens when a disc in your spinal column bulges outward and agitates your spinal cord and nerves. This leads to pain in the lower back area and sometimes numbness. The condition is mostly caused by advanced age but it could also occur due to injury.
Other medical conditions known to cause lower back pain include:
- Kidney stones
- A gallbladder issue
- Complications in your main abdominal artery
Let’s now find out how to relieve lower back pain from sitting too much.
How To Relieve Back Pain From Sitting
Assuming you’ve just started to experience this, the first thing you will want to do is change your sitting position.
Best Position To Alleviate Back Pain From Sitting
With regard to preventing back pain, the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you sit up straight. This is what every other health professional will tell you as well. Here’s how to do it.
Imagine a straight line running from your bottom to the ceiling and then position your back and neck along it. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your shoulders level and relaxed
Your knees should be at the same height as your hips or just a little lower. Do not rotate your pelvis forward as this will alter the neutral position of your lower back.
If you’ll be sitting for long hours, please use a high-back chair with lumbar support, a firm cushion, and well-positioned armrests. If your chair lacks an ergonomic backrest, use lumbar support cushions.
For those who spend hours behind a computer, here are some additional tips for you:
- Keep the laptop/computer screen at eye level (you could use a laptop stand to achieve this)
- Switch between sitting and standing (you can use a standing desk for this)
- Replace your existing office furniture with ergonomic chairs and desks
- Try out an ergonomic keyboard and mouse
Since we’re talking about the dos, it wouldn’t hurt to also mention the don’ts. So, do not:
- Slump or slouch forward
- Cross your knees or ankles
- Dangle your feet
- Sit in one position for a long period
Alternative Back Pain Solutions
Enough about posture and positions. If you’re wondering if there’s something else you can do to relieve back pain when sitting, here are more recommendations:
- Try physical therapy
- Apply cold ice to reduce inflammation in your lower back
- Place a heating pad on your back to increase blood flow to the area
- Get a massage to loosen your back muscles
- Use over-the-counter medication such as antidepressants and muscle relaxers
Exercises and stretches, especially those that focus on the core and abdominal muscles, can also relieve you from lower back pain. If you do them regularly, your tendons, joints, muscles, and ligaments will loosen up and this will cause you to feel relaxed and comfortable.
You could start with the following strengthening exercises:
- Glute bridges
- Side planks
As for stretches, try the following:
- Back stretch
- Deep lunge
- Back flexion stretch
- Knee to chest stretch
When To See A Doctor
If none of these solutions clears your lower back pain, that’s reason enough to see a doctor. Also, if you notice the following signs while experiencing back pain, do not hesitate to seek the help of a health professional:
- Numbness or tingling sensation in your back and/or legs
- Constant weight loss
- Loose bladder
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Hours Of Sitting Is Healthy?
Studies show that those who sit for more than eight hours a day without being physically active face similar health risks as people who smoke or are battling obesity. You become vulnerable to conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and diabetes.
However, if you sit for less than four hours a day, your vulnerability to these diseases will be low. Four to seven hours has been categorized as medium risk.
Health experts recommend that you stay physically active in order to overcome the effects of too much sitting.
How Long Does Lower Back Pain Last?
First, note that there are two types of lower back pain: acute and chronic. The former only lasts a few days and sometimes disappears without treatment. It can also be relieved by most of the solutions we have discussed so far.
Chronic back pain, on the other hand, can last months and more often needs professional treatment.
Is It Better To Sit Or Lay Down With Lower Back Pain?
One of the tried and tested ways to deal with lower back pain is a change of position. Lying down might ease the pain, but it’s only a temporary solution. Plus, it will mostly be applicable when you sleep or rest. A more effective solution would be to adopt a healthier posture while sitting.
How To Fix Lower Back Pain From Sitting – Our Parting Shot
As long as you have a job or task(s) that often require you to sit for more than four hours a day, back pain is almost inevitable, especially if you haven’t embraced ergonomic furniture and equipment at your workspace. Even those who work fewer hours might encounter lower back pain from sitting.
Left untreated, this is a condition that could easily result in spine dysfunction or cause a disability—not to mention reduced productivity, stress, and poor well-being.
This is your chance to do the right thing. Start by switching to a correct sitting posture and embracing exercises and stretches. Try the alternative solutions above for much better results. And if none of these actions works, don’t hesitate to speak to a doctor.
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