Low Back Pain is one of the top reasons people go to the doctor.
The average American spends between 8 and 12 hours a day sitting.
When you factor in sleeping hours it means that most lead a very sedentary lifestyle. These hours of inactivity are causing an increase in lower back pain. Low back pain is on the rise in our country. That means that despite all of the pain medications, injections and other “quick fixes” that are being used to treat low back pain, there is still something missing.
So what needs to be done to start alleviating low back pain?
The first thing is to move more and stop the hours of uninterrupted sitting. Sitting increases the pressure on the spine by 90% compared to standing. This is usually due to poor sitting habits as well as general fatigue. The longer we sit, the worse our posture usually becomes. We will begin to slouch, which causes a rounding of the spine. This occurs most often to those who sit in front of a computer for long periods of time.
The rounding of the spine puts increase compression on the discs in the lower back and pushes fluid out of the discs. With less fluid, the discs become flatter and over time, can lead to disc bulges and arthritic changes in the spine that lead to pain.
Disc pressure isn’t the only thing you have to worry about. You also have to worry about your muscles. How active are your muscles when your sitting? The answer it not very active at all. The longer you sit, the tighter your muscles become. Our bodies are very adaptive. If we don’t move, contract and elongate muscles they will adaptively shorten. What happens when muscles are shortened? They become weak. Without optimal length and tension, muscles can’t work efficiently. They will lack endurance and will become weak. Tight, weak muscles lead to imbalances that will eventually cause you to have pain in your back. Sitting uninterrupted is gradually causing you to experience chronic pain.
What can you do to avoid this?
The simple answer is to move more. Our bodies are designed for movement. Movement improves circulation, flexibility, strength, balance, coordination and agility. Movement is what gives us life. When we feel pain in the back after sitting for too long, that is the brain’s way of saying that it is time to move. However, you shouldn’t wait until you feel pain to do something about it.
Set an Alarm
A good habit is to set an alarm to alert you every 30 minutes. That is the recommended time that you should sit at any given time. I know this sounds like a lot of breaks, but it will help your back significantly. You’ll be resetting your posture, moving and improving the alignment of your spine. It only takes a minute or two to do this, and it will help your back pain almost immediately.
Another good tip is to have an ergonomic assessment in your workplace or get a standing desk. Proper workstation setup will decrease stress on your muscles and joints. However, even the most optimal set-ups should still come with a break every 30 minutes. Standing desks are great as well. Standing keeps you in better alignment and allows for better circulation. An adjustable standing to sitting desk is a good way to alter your position throughout the day.
Try starting a new activity or exercise program
Activities like yoga, walking during lunch or taking a fitness class will help you to improve your strength and mobility. Increasing your physical activity and making this a consistent part of your daily routine will make your back feel much better. Plus, you’ll feel more energized and productive throughout the day.
Seek help from a professional
If your back pain has lasted more than three months or is progressively getting worse, you should see a physical therapist for an evaluation. Ignoring your pain can make things worse and lead to a more serious condition that is more difficult to treat. Even worse, you could become more susceptible to a more serious injury such as a disc herniation. These conditions may have to be treated with more drastic surgical interventions to correct the problem. Recovery from back surgery is difficult and some never recover fully.
Lower back pain is one of the biggest medical issues we face in this country. More than 75% of people experience low back pain on some level. Billions of dollars a year are spent on low back pain for medical costs, lost work hours and treatments. Improving these statistics starts simply with moving. Get up from your chair or couch and be more active! Back pain shouldn’t become an inevitability of aging.