If you have low back pain, you are not alone. I have had jobs that have had a negative impact on my back from standing too long, sitting too long or jumping too much. Most Americans have had to suffer through this at one time or another.
“About 80 percent of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes,” according to the National Institutes of Health.
If you feel like your back pain affects your productivity, you are probably right. “It is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work days.”
Gotta Hunch You Shouldn’t Slouch?
Whether you sit or stand, focusing on your posture will help you to create better balance.
“When standing, keep your weight balanced on your feet. Don't slouch. To promote good posture when sitting, choose a chair that allows you to rest both feet flat on the floor while keeping your knees level with your hips,” The Mayo Clinic says,.
According to Health.com, “Hunching over a computer is a leading reason why four in five women end up with crippling back pain at some point in their lives.”
So why does slouching hurt?
“When sitting in an office chair for a long period, the natural tendency for most people is to slouch over or slouch down in the chair, and this posture can overstretch the spinal ligaments and strain the discs and surrounding structures in the spine. Over time, incorrect sitting posture can damage spinal structures and contribute to or worsen back pain,” explains Spine-Health.com.
I like to support my back with a lumbar specific pillow from my chiropractor. Spine-Health.com suggests, sitting all the way towards the back of your chair with a pillow or cushion supporting the natural arch in your lower back.
For Your Eyes Only
Where you gaze is also important. I make sure my computer screen is at eye level. Spine-Health.com explains how this is done.
“Close your eyes while sitting comfortably with your head facing forward. Slowly open your eyes. Your gaze should be aimed at the center of your computer screen. If your computer screen is higher or lower than your gaze, you need to either raise or lower it to reduce strain on the upper spine.”
When I was pregnant, I liked to sit on my chaise while working on my computer. To keep it eye level then, I would use an adjustable roll-up desk.
Roll With the Office Pressure
Speaking of rolling, I roll my shoulders back periodically to make sure I am sitting or standing up straight. I also take breaks and use a foam roller which allows for me to open up my chest and bring my spine into neutral.
Here is how Livestrong.com suggests getting onto the roller:
“Place the foam roller on the floor in a vertical position. Sit at the edge of the roller. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Ease yourself back until the top of your head and the base of your spine are on the roller. Allow your body weight to sink into the roller. Hold the position for 1 minute.”
Once I’ve got my positioning, I then like to perform the following exercise.
Lie on your back lengthwise on the roller with your knees bent and legs pressing together, feet flat on the floor. Make sure your shoulders are not hunched close to your ears.
Your head should be a natural extension of your spine. Extend both arms up to the ceiling, palms facing towards each other.
Breathe in, reaching both arms towards the ceiling, while keeping them straight, allowing shoulder blades to come off the roller.
Breathe out as you push the shoulder blades back towards the roller. This will allow you to not lead with the shoulders in subsequent exercises.
Repeat 6-10 times.
Stand By Your Gait
Speaking of standing, in college and a brief stint here or there around Christmas time, I worked in retail. I can honestly say nothing hurt me more than standing and walking around the store on the hard mall floor. It turns out, it could just be how I compensate due to my gait or how I uniquely walk and stand.
PodiatryToday.com cites George Trachtenberg, DPM, who “believes the majority of lower back pain is not caused by a direct injury or congenital problems and results from an abnormal gait.”
Dr. Trachtenberg goes on to say, “using appropriate orthotic devices will help eliminate these abnormal compensations and assist the aforementioned body parts in functioning more correctly. The low back is just one of those remote areas that can be affected by abnormal gait.”
Work on Core Issues
As a Pilates instructor I strengthen my core to prevent pain, so it is innate for me to work on sitting up tall. Pilates works on those intercostal and postural muscles.
“One cannot underestimate the benefit of simple exercises that support the deep postural muscles of the trunk, awareness of neutral alignment, and supple use of the shoulders and hips,” according to Spine-Health.com.
You can do some simple Pilates breathing at your desk, reminding you to focus on your core and sit up straight.
Breathe in through the nose, pulling your navel in toward your spine, without raising your shoulders and puffing out your chest. Exhale through the mouth, feeling the ribs move closer together and pulling the navel in even deeper towards the spine.
I also suggest taking a Pilates class or private session. It is important to learn the exercises correctly from a certified instructor so you will benefit the most and ultimately work to relieve your lower back pain.
“Low Back Pain Fact Sheet – NINDS.NIH.GOV.” The National Institutes of Health.” Web 16 April 2015.
“What can I do to avoid back pain at work?– MayoClinic.com.” The Mayo Clinic. Web 16 April 2015.
“12 Ways to Stop Work Related Back Pain – Health.com.” Health Magazine. Web 16 April 2015.
“When Orthotics Can Treat Low Back Pain – PodiatryToday.com.” Podiatry Today. Web 16 April 2015.
Ergonomics Office and Workplace- Spine-Health.com.” Spine Health. Web 16 April 2015.
“Using a Foam Roller for Back Pain Relief – LiveStrong.com.” Live Strong.
“Pilates Exercises for Back Pain- Spine-Health.com.” Spine Health. Web 16 April 2015.
Joanne Sgro-Killworth is a Television Fitness Expert, Certified Personal Trainer and Sport Nutritionist and Publicist. She is Certified in Pilates, Pre-natal/Post-Partum, Yoga and Senior Fitness. She specializes in Weight Loss, Post-Rehab and Post Cancer Training.
Joanne's fitness plans, recipes and lifestyle advice are available globally on her website http://www.happiwoman.com/ She resides in the Phoenix, AZ area with her husband and children, where she runs her fitness and publicity business, JSK PR, http://www.jskpr.com/
Reviewed April 17, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith