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Have you ever experienced lower back pain when standing up from a sitting position? If your answer is yes, then you are not alone. According to the NINDS, short for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, approximately eighty percent of the adult population experience low back pain in the course of their lifetimes. In fact, studies show that lower back pain has become a worldwide major health problem. Statistics even indicate that it is one of the most common reasons that prevent many people from going to work, resulting in an increased personal and economic cause.
Postural stress and repetitive movements are the most common cause of lower back pain. People who are prone to these types of stress are those who:
- spend much of their time lifting, pulling, bending, carrying (for example healthcare workers, construction and warehouse workers)
- sit for long periods or those who are behind computer screens (for example office workers, call center representatives)
The human back is made from complicated structures of muscles, bones, joints, and ligaments. They work together so you can stand and sit properly.
And in general, when you are sitting for extended periods, the body gets accustomed to that position. While you are sitting, your knees flex or bend closer to your chest.
When the knees or lower extremities are in this position, the muscles lock in place, making it tighter and shorter. This is one of the most popular causes of lower back pain when sitting, and it is what we call postural stress — the stress that our bodies experience as a result of prolonged sitting in one position, repetitive movements, or non-ergonomic workplace environment.
However, lower back pain when sitting is not always due to postural stress. Other causes may include aging, trauma or injury, sciatica back pain, existing medical conditions, obesity, to mention some.
You can also have lower back pain due to sprain or strain in the muscles—for example, picking up a paper from the floor. In addition, poor body mechanics, psychological stress, and conditions such as arthritis may complicate lower back pain. In some cases, back pain can be a result of a disease or problem in the internal organs, like the presence of kidney stones, infections in the kidneys, a blood clot on the organs near the lower back, as well as bone loss.
If your back hurts when sitting all day, you might also find it difficult to walk, get out of bed, bend over, or stand up from a chair. To alleviate pain or at least prevent further injury, here are seven tips to help you do things easier.
In a study led by Scottish and Canadian researchers, it was discovered that sitting up straight is not the most desirable position for desk workers. The researchers suggested that sitting at a specific angle is the best for backs.
Why? Naturally, our spine is supposed to be S-shaped when viewed laterally.
The S-like curvature contributes to the flexibility of the spine, as well as even distribution of weight.
The cervical region or the neck area, and the lower back, called lumbar, should be curved slightly inward.
On the other hand, the thoracic (located in the chest area) and sacral (the bottom of the spine) has a gentle outward curve.
Back support, especially lumbar support, aids in maintaining the natural curvature of the spine or vertebrae. Previously, we have discussed that a wrong sitting position contributes to the progression of lower back pain.
So, if you are working in the office sitting on your chair all day long, consider getting the best chair support for your office chair.
A chair that supports the lumbar region of the back helps maintain its natural curve and prevents unnecessary postural stress.
One of the most common non-pharmacologic and non-invasive treatment on how to help lower back pain is the use of ice packs and heat therapy. Studies show that both methods aid in relieving lower back pain.
Some people find that ice therapy is not as effective as hot compresses, but still, it does not mean that it has no value at all. You just have to know when to use ice packs or heat therapy.
Cold application is most beneficial during the first forty-eight hours of injury, such as back strains. It helps reduce acute pain and aids in reducing the effects of inflammation or swelling.
Once the initial or acute phase of injury is over, heat therapy works by accelerating the recovery phase and relieving muscular spams. Hot compress reduces local muscle stiffness, the reason for long-lasting lower back pain from sitting all day.
When we are seated, 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.
Also, engaging in exercise activities help 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.
Here’s what you should do:
- Don’t sit in your chair during the entire shift. You can set up an alarm every half an hour and work around your station for one to two minutes.
- If you cannot walk around in the office, then stand up and do a bit of stretching.
- Drink lots of water. If you do, your bladder will serve as an alarm to ask you to stand up and go to the bathroom. Now, aside from avoiding strain on your back, you are also helping your kidney by drinking lots of water.
- Get active at work by doing the following exercises at your desk:
Do this by raising both shoulders at the same time towards the ears. Hold them up for five seconds and then bring your shoulder downwards to the relaxed, normal position.
Keep shoulders relaxed with arms hanging loosely. Then tilt the head sideways, first to the left side then to the right. Hold for five seconds on each side and bring back to the neutral position.
Back and hip stretch
While sitting on your office chair, bend your right leg over the left leg and look over the right shoulder. After that, place your left hand on the right tight and apply pressure. Repeat on the other side.
Upper body stretch
Interlace fingers and turn your palms upward. Straighten up your arms and stretch them above your head. Hold for ten to fifteen seconds and breathe in and out.
Upper back stretch
Interlace your fingers. Then, place them behind your head. Your palm should touch the back of your head. Try to pull shoulder blades together. Hold for five seconds, breathe deeply, and relax.
While sitting on your office chair, slowly lean forward. Keep your head down with your neck relaxed. Hold your position for ten to twenty seconds. Use your hands to push yourself back up slowly and carefully.
Stand up and hold your left elbow with your right hand behind your head. With your left hand, try to touch your right shoulder blades. Gently pull your left elbow behind your head to feel the stretch in your shoulder and back. Hold for ten seconds but do not overstretch. Repeat on the other side.
Stand from your chair and let your arms hang loosely on both of your sides. Gently tilt your head forward. Then, keep your shoulders relaxed and downward. Hold for five seconds and relax.
- If there are stairs in the building, you could use it to walk up and down a couple of flights to keep your heart pumping, it will, in turn, promote circulation throughout the body, including your back.
- Perform some back stretching exercises to alleviate pain or soreness.
Stretching and simple exercises will open up the chest to open up the chest and pull back you hunched shoulders.
Here are some easy exercises that you can do for relief of lower back pain after when standing up from sitting long hours.
To do this exercise, stand against the wall and extend both of your arms on your sides with palms facing forward. Imagine doing a T position with your body and hands.
Then slowly raise your arms overhead, and as far as you can like you would in making a snow angel. Keep both of your arms touching the surface of the wall. After that, slowly move your hand down.
Do it for eight times once a day.
First, find a corner in your house, raise both of your arms, and place your hands on the wall (while facing the corner). Then, lean towards the wall and hold for thirty seconds.
You can do it once or twice, but do not force yourself, especially if it intensifies your back pain.
Find an open doorway and raise both of your arms to both sides of the door at about ninety degrees. Step one foot forward and hold it for at least thirty seconds to achieve an excellent chest stretch.
Lie back on a mat or in a place at your home with enough space. Then, place the foam roller under your head and back.
Your spine and your head should be parallel to the foam roller so they can relax. Then, extend your arms on the side with your palms facing up to the ceiling. Hold it for thirty seconds and then do the same stretch with your arms at different angles.
For example, bring your hands higher and hold it for thirty seconds. You can do it as far as high above your head as you can tolerate.
If you do not have a foam roller, you can use a large bath towel and roll it to use instead of the foam roller.
For a summary of the posture exercises that you can do at home, see video below:
These exercises should be performed cautiously. Do not exercise when you not feel.
Listen and try to feel what your body is telling you. If there is too much lower back pain or other symptoms, stop the activity.
Also, take appropriate breaks and wear comfortable clothing.
Eat something light, and do not exercise with an empty stomach. Never exercise immediately after a full meal as it will affect digestion and also may cause reflux of the gastric contents.
Research says that poor body posture can cause a lot of back pain. If you are like some office workers, you probably sit for seven to eight hours each day.
You may not feel lower back pain immediately, but over time, the ill-effects of poor posture will become more apparent. It may be worse during certain times of the day and eventually, lead to anatomical changes in your spinal column. It occurs as the bones, muscles, and other structures of the back slowly adapt to the repeated bad posture every day.
With so much of your time sitting down behind your desk, it is imperative that you do not sit uncomfortably or with bad posture. One of the most common error that a lot of people make is hunching forward while sitting on a chair. Hunching or leaning forward causes misalignment of the spine, resulting in strains and lower back pain.
Posture correctors help break the habit of improper posture when sitting or standing. The back support or brace reminds the body of the correct way of sitting or standing as it aligns back the muscles or bones in the right position.
The primary goal of posture correctors is to break the habit of bad sitting posture and re-train the back muscles, bones, and ligaments to maintain proper body alignment and posture naturally.
There are many kinds of posture braces available in the market. For best results, get a posture corrector that suits your needs and back condition.
Beyond daily activities and other simple exercises such as walking or jogging, joining physical therapy programs might help. Physical therapy sessions will help you strengthen your muscle groups that support the lower back.
They will also help improve flexibility as well as mobility and promote good posture, along with other interventions.
Acupuncture and spinal manipulation are two different non-pharmacological treatment modalities. If you are not a fan of medications, you can try visiting an acupuncturist or a chiropractor.
Many people claim that acupuncture is moderately effective in relieving lower back pain. By definition, acupuncture is a procedure that involves the insertion of specialized needles into various acupuncture points in the body.
Some practitioners say that this method clears away blockages in the body’s life force that they call Qi (pronounced as chee).
Others believe that when acupuncture needles are inserted in the points to alleviate low back pain, the neurochemicals such as endorphins, acetylcholine, and serotonin are released.
These neurochemicals are believed to be the body’s naturally occurring painkillers, which, in turn, reduces lower back pain. Currently, clinical studies to investigate further the benefits of acupuncture are still ongoing.
Spinal manipulation, on the other hand, involves mobilization of the bones, particularly the spinal cord. Licensed specialists called chiropractors (doctors of chiropractic care) perform spinal manipulation.
They use their hands to manipulate the bones by adjusting, mobilizing, or stimulating the bones or the surrounding tissues.
The techniques they use have been shown to have small to moderate short-term benefits in relieving chronic low back pain. However, evidence supporting the long-term effects and other specific techniques are still conflicting, and clinical studies are still ongoing to answer some questions that pertain to chiropractic care.
Also, it is essential to note that neither manipulation or mobilization technique is appropriate when an individual has an underlying medical condition for the lower back pain such as spinal stenosis, fracture, osteoporosis, spinal cord compression, bulging of intervertebral discs, or arthritis.
Most of us probably have heard that laughter is the best medicine. According to research, laughter is associated with the release of endorphins, which is a natural painkiller. These endorphins work in the peripheral nervous system by blocking the protein called substance P from transmitting pain signals.
Many people have been out of work due to lower back pain. The escalating personal and economic costs of back pain are tremendous, especially those associated with long term disability.
As with other health conditions and illnesses, prevention is better than the cure. Whether you are having lower back pain for weeks or months now or just having a hunch that you are starting to feel the signs and symptoms, pay attention to the various ways of prevention. You can benefit from some (if not all) of the tips above even before you experience lower back pain from sitting all day.