Sitting for long periods of time is problematic for those with and without lower back pain. If you have suffered from a disc herniation or have lower back pain sitting can be especially bothersome because the prolonged rounding of the spine that occurs while seated puts pressure on the discs, muscles and joints of the spine.
Studies have shown that there is increased risk of disc herniation in those who perform sedentary (non-active) jobs which are characterized by sitting. So what is it about sitting that puts us at risk for lower back pain?
1. Sitting increases pressure within the disc vs. standing.
2. Sitting increases strain on the back part of the disc.
3. Sitting causes creep to occur in the ligaments of the spine. This increases shearing of the joints.
4. Sitting increases compressive loads on the spine.
Here are some strategies that you can implement to reduce back troubles during prolonged sitting!
1. Use an ergonomic chair and use it properly: ergonomic chairs can be adjusted and this is what you should be doing every 20 minutes throughout your day. Even if you set up your workstation in an “ideal” position the prolonged posture will create load on your tissues. The most ideal posture is a posture that changes often!
If you change your posture many times throughout the day the loads on the different tissues will balance out. Therefore the best chair is one that facilitates easy posture changes.
2. Get out of your chair: there is no substitute for getting up and moving out of your chair. A rest break should consist of a movement and position that is opposite from the position you were just sitting in. If you are sitting (even upright) there will still be some rounding that occurs in your lower back. Therefore you should not stand up and bend forward to “stretch” out your back. This can lead to further exacerbations in spinal stress. Extension (bending backwards) relieves stress on the back.
Therefore this is the type of posture break we recommend:
Stand from your chair and spend 10-20 seconds rolling your neck and stretching your shoulders. This allows the spine time to rebalance.
After 10-20 seconds of upper body stretching gently reach your arms up towards the ceiling creating a gentle back bend through your spine.
Sit back down and repeat often throughout the day.
3. Remove your wallet from your back pocket: a wallet will put stress on your hip joint and sciatic nerve and will cause or exacerbate back pain.