Are you experiencing back pain from sitting too long?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to one study, about 54% of people who experience lower back pain spend the majority of the workday sitting.
Prolonged periods of sitting is a common cause to every day back pain for a number of different reasons. Whether you’re in the wrong chair, you’re not sitting correctly or you simply are sitting too much, there are several ways to combat pesky back pain from sitting too long.
There are a few key steps you’ll need to take to fight and prevent pack pain from sitting.
First, you’ll need to identify the area of pain, followed by paying a visit to the doctor. On top of the recommendations you’ll get from your doctor, we will go over a few simple steps that lead to an overall more healthy lifestyle that will in turn, hopefully, reduce back pain.
Sitting is a real epidemic, especially in America where we sit more than almost anyone else in the world. The team here at OfficeChairPicks.com hopes that this guide to a more balanced sitting strategy will help reduce your back pain and make you a more healthy human!
#1 Identify the area of pain
It may sound obvious, but it’s important to note the first item on guide to reducing back pain from sitting too much. And, you guessed it, the first step is to identify the area of pain. There are many, many different types of back pain in numerous different areas.
Is it muscular pain? Skeletal pain? How about nerve pain?
That’s what you need to think about.
Be specific when identifying the area of pain too – is it lumbar, upper back or mid back? Is it central to your spine or does your pain come from your sides, shoulders or neck?
This is the most important step to getting on the path of reducing back pain from sitting. Discovering and Identifying what type of pain your having and where your having it will help you find better long term pain relief solutions.
Don’t put the cart before the horse and skip this step!
#2 See a doctor
This is another seemingly obvious step, however you’d be surprised how many people skip this one. The reason we put this as step number 2 is to prevent people from Googling the answers to a potentially serious back pain problem.
Ironically, you likely found this post from a Google search.
That being said, see a darn doctor before thinking the internet will solve your medical problems! Our recommendations below are based on studies and articles we came across during our research for this piece. While we are confident that some of the tips and advice below could potentially reduce back pain, you still should see a doctor first.
We cannot advocate this point enough. The #1 way to solve medical problems is seeking advice from medical professionals. And while our team knows a lot about heath, ergonomics and healthy sitting/work habits, we are not medical professionals. Which is exactly why you should seek one out!
Seriously. Go see a doctor if you’re in pain. Feel free to incorporate some of the below advice into your life – it will likely make you more healthy – however you need to see a doctor and get a professional opinion on your situation. Especially if the pain is chronic or has been hindering your quality of life.
#3 Stand up more throughout the day
Aside from finding a doctor, one of the best ways to combat back pain from sitting too long is, drum roll please… standing more often.
Prolific advise, right?
Well, if it were that easy, the average American wouldn’t be sitting for upwards of 50% of their waking life. Which is exactly why we are going to give you some handy advice on incorporating more standing and walking into your life.
Take a 10-15 min walk every 60-90 minutes
Whether you’re working, watching TV, or sitting at the kitchen table doing your taxes, start to be more aware for how long you’re sitting at any given period of time. Doing so will help you be more mindful if your body. A good rule of thumb is that for every hour of sitting, get up and walk for a consecutive 10-15 minutes.
Walking for 10-15 minutes can invigorate your body and can have profound, positive effects on your overall health. According to Dr. James Levine author of the book Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It, standing up can activate the bodily functions that cellular processes that process things like cholesterol and blood sugar.
You’re already on the pathway to a more healthy lifestyle if you realize that once you commit to sitting less and standing more.
The above fact alone shows that standing will help you potentially lose or maintain a good weight – being overweight can also lead to back pain. That coupled with prolonged periods of sitting could definitely be the culprit and by simply standing more, you can maintain a more healthy lifestyle and potentially reduce back pain.
Consider a wearable that tracks steps and reminds you to move
Wearables like the FitBit can be the crucial missing piece of the puzzle that will lead to standing more. Tired of the pesky back pain from sitting too long, but having trouble being mindful of standing more frequently?
Well, a FitBit or any other type of exercise tracking wearable may be just what you need. These bad boys do much more than simply count steps. You can challenge your friends/coworkers into standing/walking more throughout the day, plus FitBit’s even remind you to stand up and move around when you’ve been sedentary for too long.
It’s much easier to wear a FitBit than clock watching and guessing when you should stand up next. On top of that, many people find the FitBit to be a fun and challenging way to becoming a more active person.
Remember, sitting too long can cause back pain – so standing, walking more and living an overall more active lifestyle is the best way to “prevent” prolonged sitting.
Office Challenges (pushups, planks, etc.)
Want to take it to the next level? Try out an office challenge with a few of your coworkers. Commit to doing 20 push ups or situps a day for a month – then continue the trend after that. You could do planks, too.
Make it a big event!
Once a day for a few minutes, gather everyone into a big space (or via your remote software) and execute the challenge. When it’s an event and you can create camaraderie around the office about your daily push-up challenge, more people are likely to stick with it.
Other ideas to fight back pain from sitting too long with fun office challenges…
- Chip in 10 bucks each once a month to see who can get the overall most steps on their FitBit
- Get a gym membership (or virtual training plan) with an office buddy and commit to a few days a week working out
- Create a company challenge on who can lose the most weight (percentage of a whole) in a year and reward them with a big prize
Other ways to fight back pain from sitting too long
- Drink plenty of water (more bathroom breaks = more moving)
- Take the stairs whenever possible. If this is tough for you, take the stairs down to start. Walking down stairs is easier than walking up stairs.
- Have walking meetings at work whenever possible
- Stand up whenever you talk on the phone
#4 Make sure you have the right office setup
The right office or desk setup is another critical component to help combat back pain from sitting too long. An old, decrepit office chair with poor ergonomics can lead to back pain. Think about it this way – if you sleep on a really soft mattress but need a firm mattress, you’ll likely experience some sort of displeasure. Same thing goes with an office chair.
Ever heard the adage of something like, “you sleep for 1/3rd of your life, so investing in a nice mattress is worth it”?
News flash – if Americans sit for more than 50% of their waking life, you’re also sitting for about 1/3rd of your life. So why not invest in a comfortable, supportive office chair?
Understanding the right ergonomics and choosing an office chair based on your ergonomic needs is a critical component to reducing back pain from sitting too long.
Here are the key ergonomic features that are most important in any given office chair:
- Lumbar Support – helps posture and cushions and contours to your lower back
- S-curve design – contours to the natural curvature of your spine
- Headrest and upper back support – promotes sitting up straight and reduces the tendency to slouch
- Adjustable features like height, tilt and armrests – custom fits to your exact height and width which promotes better posture
- Comfortable seat cushion – doesn’t have to be soft and squishy. Remember, are you a firm mattress person or a soft mattress person? Same concept goes for office chairs and there are a variety of them to for your needs.
Check out our guide on how to select the right office chair for more information.
Ahh the standing desk. One of our very favorite ways to prevent back pain from sitting too long.
The most common and well known standing desk brand is Varidesk. However, they can be a bit pricey. Our team researched and wrote up an entire article on the best Varidesk alternatives, so if you’re in the market, you should definitely check it out.
Anyway, incorporating standing into your work day is an excellent way to start standing more. Even if it’s 30 minutes here, or an hour there, standing while working can have a lot of positive impacts on your health and will potentially help to reduce back pain.
Plus, you can try one of these standing desk exercises during the day.
Are you sitting properly?
Bottom line, sit like this:
Not like this:
#5 Exercise and stretch regularly
Last but not least, probably the hardest one on the list – exercise and stretch regularly. Now, most people don’t do this because they think of exercise as running 3 miles, spending 45 minutes on the elliptical or pumping iron.
That’s not the case at all. Although vigorous exercise is healthy and in most cases really good for your body and long term health, you don’t have to be a meathead or a marathon runner to exercise regularly.
Take the long walk home, jog for 15 minutes then walk for 15 minutes.
Walk a mile during your lunch break – it only takes about 20 minutes max.
You don’t have to get a gym membership to exercise – stop making excuses, get up, and move more often. It’s pretty simple, and if you’re consistent, exercising regularly and being more active can potentially reduce back pain from sitting too long and from other causes.
Overall Thoughts on Back Pain from Sitting Too Long
At the end of the day, the ideas in this post seem like simple ways to combat and prevent back pain from sitting too long. The biggest challenge with any of the items on this list is being consistent.
Sitting is comfortable and habitual for most people. Unfortunately, sitting also has the potential to have adverse effects on our bodies. Doing something different can be uncomfortable and can take time to get used to. However, if you incorporate the above advice into your daily life, these habits can help you alleviate pesky back pain.
Whether you choose to go with a standing desk or start walking more often during the day – the whole point of this article is to show you that sitting less and standing more will leave to a more healthy lifestyle. It will also lead to less back pain from sitting!