How to Alleviate Back Pain from Sitting
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Long periods of sitting can lead to aches, tension, and stiffness in your back - exacerbated if your posture or ergonomics are poor. Back pain from sitting can be really frustrating. You may feel like there’s no escaping it if your job requires you to write presentations, sit on zoom calls, and respond to emails all day long. But there are simple ways you can feel better!
Why are you getting a sore back from sitting in the first place? Simply put, evolution (thankfully!) hasn’t caught up with modern life - we were not designed to sit for hours every day.
When the body is put in this position for long periods of time, certain muscles are shortened and others weakened. Through immobility, our connective tissue - fascia - can also develop adhesions and restrict full movement. In your lower back, you may experience compression of the vertebral joints and discs, or a loss of the natural lumbar curve through lack of support in your chair.
Quite the list, isn’t it? All of this can lead to chronic pain and muscular imbalance.
So, how do we fix it?
Fortunately there are so many things you can do! Things that do not involve masking the symptoms with painkillers or anti-inflammatories, only for the pain to return again the following day. If you work on the root cause instead - sitting and lack of movement - and make some simple changes, you can start feeling better in a matter of just a few days.
First things first.
Make sure your desk is set up in a way that doesn’t cause excess strain, stretching, or reaching. Pay attention to the bend in your elbows, wrists, hips, and knees. They should all feel well supported yet relaxed. If an adjustable or standing desk is a possibility it can make a world of difference, and good lumbar support is absolutely essential.
Take breaks and move
By far the simplest way to reduce back pain from sitting is to sit less.
Take frequent breaks throughout your day. Get up, walk around, move. If you add in some targeted stretches to lengthen those shortened hamstrings, hip flexors, or pecs, all the better. Aim for a quick break every 30 minutes to reset your posture - think ‘little and often’!
If you can’t get away from your desk, try simplified yoga moves in your chair. Cat - cow and gentle rotations translate well into a seated position and bring some flexibility to your spine. Yes, you’re still sitting - but any movement is better than no movement!
Here’s another one to try.
Start by lying down on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keeping your knees together and shoulders in contact with the floor, slowly roll your legs from side to side. Don’t force the movement, only go as far as is comfortable. This exercise engages your core and mobilizes your spine. It works really well as part of your morning routine, or to restore some mobility at the end of the day.
Foam rolling is an excellent way to prevent and alleviate back pain originating in the muscles and fascia (connective tissue). It frees up restrictions and adhesions, improves circulation and helps to increase overall mobility. It also reduces general muscle tightness and soreness.
For a detailed guide on how to do this safely and effectively, check out my free resources.
If the tension and achiness gets too much, heat can be really useful. It’s more about relieving the symptoms rather than fixing the cause, but oh, it feels great!
Microwaveable heat packs are an easy self-care tool. They provide moist heat, which reaches deep into the muscles to provide relief. Fillings such as grains, seeds, or clay beads retain heat well. Some even have essential oils added for a therapeutic scent and mild aromatherapy benefits.
...Or you can keep it super simple and run yourself a warm bath. Aaaahh…
For more home working health advice:
Check out my free resources for detailed guides on foam rolling, ergonomics, and stretches for the office!
Any recommendations in this blog are meant as general self-care and not as a substitute for medical advice. If you experience pain that is sharp, unfamiliar, or starts suddenly, consult with a medical professional before deciding on any self-care measures.