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Lower back pain is one of the most common diagnoses in the US today. Statistics show that 80% of people experience at least one episode of low back pain in their lives.
Unfortunately, the demands of sitting in many office jobs puts the low back at risk for developing aches and pains, joint problems, and disc disease.
Low back pain can affect the way you position yourself and how you move, causing pain with sleeping, walking, sitting, and standing. It can keep you from participating in hobbies and sports that you love.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent low back pain when sitting at work. One of the most important things is having good posture.
Your musculoskeletal system, which includes your bones, joints, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tendons, are all built to function in a specific way.
The S-shaped curve in your spine helps it absorb shock, protect your nervous system, and provide stability and flexibility to your movement. It is important to keep the spine in correct alignment because this affects the degree to which it can fulfill its functions.
Good posture means that your bones, joints, and muscles are aligned in the ideal position, allowing the right amount of mobility and stability. This also means your muscles can work more efficiently against gravity and keep you upright.
One of the most common results of having poor neck posture is headaches. This is often due to the muscles of the neck working harder to support your head.
When you jut your chin forward to see the screen of the computer, the muscles of the neck then have to adapt to support this position. The resulting muscular tightness can contribute to tension headaches.
Muscle strains can happen anywhere in the body. They can occur when you sit in a bad position for a long time.
Muscle strains can build up over time in such a way that you don’t notice daily pain, but a muscle can suddenly start hurting, seemingly without a cause. This is called repetitive microtrauma. Some common areas to experience muscle strains are in the upper back, lower back, and neck.
Poor circulation can result from constriction of a blood vessel, which can occur when sitting in poor posture.
This can result in your muscles and organs not receiving enough nutrients to replenish the ones used. It also results in varicose veins and life-threatening clot formation.
By sitting in a slouched position, you reduce the maximum capacity of your lungs.
The rounded position of your upper back limits the space the diaphragm has to expand and contract with each breath. This means that when sitting with bad posture, you cannot breathe as deeply as when you have good posture. This can lead to your body not getting enough oxygen to heal, restore, and replace cells.
The correct sitting posture keeps the joints of the spine, shoulders, hips, and knees correctly aligned. Your chin should be tucked, not jutting forward.
Try gently pulling your chin into the front of your neck. Keep your gaze parallel to the floor.
Your chest should be lifted, and shoulders pulled back and down. Pinch your shoulder blades together as much as you can, and then relax to about 50% of what you just did. Don’t hunch your shoulders up towards your ears.
Your lower back should have a small curve. Make sure you are not flattening your lower back completely. This will create a C-shaped curve in the spine, which is not ideal. Tilt the pelvis forward slightly. If this is difficult or painful for you, try a Coccyx Seat Cushion. It takes pressure off the tailbone, allowing you to sit upright longer.
Sit with your knees either parallel or a little lower than your hips. If your knees are too high, you can raise your chair or you can use the Car Wedge Seat Cushion to bring your hips higher.
Your screen should be at eye level so that you are not looking down or up to see it. You can use a monitor stand to raise the screen if needed. Your head should not be jutted forward and your gaze should be parallel to the floor.
When sitting in your chair, your elbows should be bent 90 degrees to reach the desk. If they are more bent, that can cause you to bend at your wrists to use the keyboard. Over time this can result in elbow or wrist pain. If you are sitting too low for the desk, use a seat cushion to raise yourself up.
If you have knee pain, sitting with your knees bent all day can be painful. Elevate your feet slightly in front of you with a footstool or a foot rest. Put it slightly in front of where your feet naturally land so that it reduces the bend in your knees.
When sitting in your chair, slide your hips all the way to the back of the chair. Lean your upper back into the chair. If this causes you to collapse your chest, you can use a rolled up towel placed vertically along the upper back to remind you to sit up straighter.
Stiffness in the joints develops when they have been in one position for a long time. Set alerts on your computer or phone to remind you to stand up and take a walk around the office once every hour. Use this to also give your eyes a break from looking at the screen and get a glass of water to stay hydrated.
Wear a posture corrector brace when working. It pulls your shoulders back and will tighten around the shoulders if you start to slouch. This will remind you to correct your posture and over time it will train you to sit with good posture.
Set alarms on your computer or phone, or put a colorful post-it on your monitor to remind you to stretch your shoulders, wrists, and lower back once every hour.
If you want to change your current chair because the above tips do not help, you can try a kneeling chair. Kneeling chairs push your hips forward, causing you to sit with the right amount of curve in the lower back.
When sitting in a kneeling chair, make sure that the pressure is applied onto the bony part of your shin, and not your kneecaps.
If you want to train your core while you sit, you can try a stability ball chair. This model comes with a base that has wheels and a back rest. It can be challenging to sit on a ball all day, especially if you have back pain, so check with your physical therapist prior to trying this.