The featured question this week comes from a reader asking about lower back pain:
I have a lot of back pains and I'm beginning to think I'm sitting in my office chair the wrong way or something. I'm young, so it seems weird that I'm going through this! Any solutions?
Technology is a great thing, but it has also led many of us to experience neck, upper back, or lower back pain. We are increasingly spending more time in front of a computer or TV, and this really isn't good for the body. Our body functions best when we move efficiently and well. Blood flow, for example, will be affected if we're not moving enough. Our joints also become affected from lack of movement. Besides genetics, lack of mobility is a major contributor to degeneration of our joints. Our joints have no direct blood supply, so in order to get nutrients in and waste out, we need to move. If a joint becomes stuck for too long, waste builds up and there is increased calcification of the joints and you have arthritis. One of the goals of chiropractic care is to keep the joints healthy and moving to avoid arthritis, pain and inflammation.
Also, when we sit too long, the muscles aren't very happy either. They can fatigue and feel stressed or strained, especially if even the smallest thing is off with our posture. So, with that said, there are a few simple things to implement to reduce pain while sitting.
- Get up and move - I recommend to all my patients that they shouldn't sit for too long; it doesn't matter if it's at work or at home. Every 30-45 minutes at a minimum, you should get up and walk around. Even if it's a quick trip to get some water or walk around the office, this does help over the course of a day. If there's an opportunity, take a 15-20 minute walk at least once during your work day. Since time can often slip away from us, it may be useful to set an alarm or timer on your phone or computer. There are also some apps available for phones that give you reminders to get up or even to look away from the monitor to avoid eye strain.
- Stretching - So this one follows along with the get up and move. Stretching is also helpful, even if it's a simple forward bend or some light twisting movements. Move the neck and shoulders around in slow circles and help oxygen and blood get back into the area.
- Proper Posture - While sitting, it is important to sit all the way back in the chair and have your low back supported with a lumbar support or a rolled up towel. The muscles of your low back should feel nice and relaxed. Avoid reaching forward with your arms - the inside edge of your shoulder blades should be resting against the back of the chair. This will avoid any undo stress on the traps and rhomboids and other smaller muscles of the neck and shoulders. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Many, especially women, are prone to sitting with one foot on the chair tucked underneath the other leg. Bad idea. It creates altered stress on the joints and muscles which can lead to pain.
- Chairs - It is important to have a good chair, preferably with a good lumbar support. Better chairs cost a little bit more, but I believe it's worth the cost to reduce any low back pain. Chairs are not a cure all for pain - you still need to make sure you're sitting properly and getting up every so often - but they're part of the equation for keeping a healthy back. Alternative types of chairs, like knee chairs or using exercise balls, can be beneficial for short-term sitting. You can still sit improperly on these chairs, and you need to be even more conscious of your posture. For a good chair recommendation, you can email me and I'll send you to the right place!
- Standing Desks - Standing desks are becoming more popular lately. Standing puts the second least load on the discs between our vertebra (lying down in a neutral position is the least load), which is why standing can feel so good for some with low back pain. I think it's still important to alternate sitting and standing, but it may be worth a shot to give standing a chance. As an added bonus, people with standing desks may burn more calories in a day.
These are some of the standout tips to help reduce pain while sitting. There are a lot of postural things to consider, and I certainly didn't list them all. I believe that just staying active throughout the day is a big component and not sitting too weird is also important.
If you've made some of these changes and are still having issues, I will make a very bias recommendation and say that seeing a chiropractor can also benefit you greatly.
Now that I've given some advice, I'm going to follow it now by stretching a bit! Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions you'd like featured here, please email me at QureshiDC@gmail.com or submit to the comments below. Have a happy and safe 4th of July!