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People need to be able to sit at some point in any day. After all, sitting may be the primary human resting position—aside from lying down at least. Whenever you eat, you sit. When you are tired, you sit. Why? Because the sitting position is a lot more comfortable than the standing posture as it allows relaxation of the muscles in the legs.
However, did you know that sitting is not always as good as you thought them to be? In fact, you can have lower back pain when sitting for extended periods.
Lower back pains can be triggered by many factors such as overuse of muscles, strain, trauma or injuries to the back, and other conditions affecting the ligaments, and intervertebral discs that keep our back functional and support the spine. One of the many factors that usually go unnoticed is poor ergonomics—the interactions between our bodies and the working environment. Poor ergonomics increases the risks of back strains, as well as other related musculoskeletal injuries.
This sitting posture puts a lot of pressure on your lower back. When there is too much stress placed on your vertebrae, especially on your lower spine (also called lumbar area), the intervertebral disks, which serves as cushions are compressed. As these cushions/shock absorbers are compromised, the pain will be present.
The human head takes 8% of the total body weight. It means that, on average, it will be around 10 to 11 lbs. Any incorrect head tilts such as putting it on a slight angle forward will put a strain on the muscles that support the neck and upper back. The further you lean your head forward, (like when you post on social media using your cellphone while sitting), and how long you maintain that straining posture, will determine how much extra work your neck and back need to do.
If you have a job that requires you to use a computer or a work desk all day long, do not let your arms hang too far from your body. If the elbows are too far away (like when you are stretching your arm to reach something), you are putting a strain on your back. It may seem not much but doing it for eight hours for a couple of days will take its toll.
Slouching is bad for the body; however, leaning too far is not good either. Why? When you lean too far, the head tends to tip forward, and the spine will not get any support. This position will cause muscle strain in the long run.
Another reason that results in lower back pain is the habit of allowing the shoulders to roll forward. This is different from slouching. You can sit up straight and still, have back pains because you keep your shoulders in a slumped position.
The tip of your shoulders should be aligned with your head and body pointing upward. The adverse effects of shoulders tipping forward reach further than you think. It causes your back to bend forward and creates a muscular imbalance between the chest muscles and the back muscles. Over time, this slump-shoulder position will alter how the shoulder blades move including the vertebrae.
If you are using a computer and do not have a high chair to keep the monitor at an eye level, you tend to look up at the monitor. Your neck is then forced to extend. This event causes compression on the joints in the neck and causes muscle fatigue that can lead to inflammation, pain, as well as headaches. Conversely, it can also result in muscle strains if you are looking down at the monitor for long periods.
“We weren’t designed to sit.” These are the words coming from the former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division Dr. Joan Vernikos. In her book “Sitting Kills, Moving Heals,” she reveals that there is a medical connection between sitting most of the day and the health dangers. She explains further that sitting too long nullifies stimulation as well as the health benefits of the body’s resistance to gravity, which humans are designed for.
There are many ways on how to help lower back pain and improve poor posture. Here, we will discuss how to minimize some of the negative effects on a human’s body, especially the back, that stem from sitting at work, or at home. So, if your back hurts when sitting, be sure to try any or all of the following healthy measures:
This is a rule of thumb if you want to avoid sciatica back pain and other lower back problems. Frequent changes to postural positions will reduce and prevent strains on the back muscles. For instance, if you are working an eight-hour shift which involves sitting behind your desk all day long, be sure to take micro-breaks for every thirty minutes of sitting throughout your workday. Micro-breaks can be as simple as standing up and stretching a bit or walking to the washroom and back.
Another helpful strategy is to drink plenty of water. Water keeps your body hydrated, which is healthy for us.
Most chairs are not ergonomically designed or shaped to help support our back. Although they come in various shapes, many chairs are not curved enough to match the anatomical shape and curvature of our backs. For maximum back comfort and to avoid lower back pains, we recommend using a low back support such as the one pictured above to keep the natural curvature of your back.
Yoga aids in increasing muscle strength and incorporates stretching-relaxation techniques. For individuals with lower back pain, stretching helps to decrease tension and stress across the back. Also, yoga promotes blood flow, which allows the nutrients to flow in different parts of the body, and toxins to flow out — promoting overall nourishment of the soft tissues and muscles in the lower back.
Eating is a basic need. However, some of the foods that we eat are not good for our health. Salty foods, high-cholesterol, and other processed foods have detrimental effects on the body. All of these unhealthy foods fuel the inflammation process, eventually causing lower back pains. So in order to prevent back pain, changing to a healthy diet may be a perfect solution.
Exercise is not just beneficial for the bones. And according to a Swiss study published in the journal Spine, low-impact aerobics can help decrease chronic low-back pain as effectively as physical therapy. How?
Exercise counters the vicious cycle of inactivity which leads to muscle weakness and stiffness. Engaging in exercise activities helps to keep our backs healthy by allowing the inter-vertebral discs to have a fluid exchange, a process by which the spine receives its nutrition. In addition, an exchange of spinal fluids helps in preventing swelling in the soft tissues and vertebral discs.
When there is a lack of body movement and exercise, inflammation occurs, and the intervertebral discs become stiff, malnourished, and degenerated.
Extra weight can weaken specific muscles in the body. It may also cause problems in your pelvis and spine, as well as contribute to low back pain.
Soothe your lower back pains with cold and/or hot therapy. These natural remedies aid in pain reduction in various ways. To know more about the effects of hot and cold application, read our article on Hot or Cold Therapy for Lower Back Pain. By simply applying cold packs or hot packs to your lower back, it can decrease pain and spur the healing process.
There are a lot of us who are guilty of the simple common mistakes that cause postural stress, which eventually result in low back pain. In the course of our lifetime, these habits form in our subconscious mind, and most of the time, we miss to notice that we are putting a lot of stress on our bodies.
Remember, everyone finds different methods to solve lower back pain problems. It is essential to safely try out various ways until you find the one that suits you. We recommend seeking professional advice if you have existing medical conditions and other health concerns for best results.
We hope that you learned about the seven habits that can cause lower back pain and what you can do to correct them.