Many people suffer from lower back pain, and one of the main causes is sitting incorrectly at home, in the car, or at work for long stretches. While you wouldn’t think it, sitting does strain your back. This is because human spines are curved into an “S” shape that essentially functions as a shock absorber. Problems arise from the fact that too many of us round our backs when we sit, throwing off that natural shape and distributing pressure unevenly across our spine. This leads to problems like aching joints, back pain, and strained spinal disks.
While most of us are desk employees and can’t avoid sitting at work, here are some ways to address back pain and the way you sit.
Unless you’ve taken the time to learn how to sit correctly, chances are you have some posture problems when it comes to sitting. Some of us slouch, slump, or lean too far forward or back. Even seemingly harmless positions like crossing your legs at the knee or having one leg up and the other down can strain your hips, pelvis, and knee joints if you do them for long periods of time. And in the end, a bad posture only exacerbates back pain.
At the most basic level, good sitting posture means that all parts of your body are balanced, aligned, and supported as needed. You should be sitting against the back of your chair, with your lower back settled into a natural arch. Your feet should be flat to the ground (or flat to your footrest), with knees level or lower than your hips and upper arms parallel to your spine.
Make Sure Your Work Chair and Office Space are Ergonomic
While sheer willpower can go a long way, your office chair and workspace setup should be ergonomically sound. After all, they should help and not hinder you.
Your chair and desk need to be adjusted to your height so that your elbows are at a 90 degree angle when you are working. Armrests should support your elbows without making your arms too far apart or encouraging you to scrunch your shoulders up.
A good ergonomic office chair will most definitely have supportive cushioning that bolsters your lower back and encourages that natural S curve.
Consider Alternative Work Chairs
For some, severe back pain is already a problem and the standard sitting posture becomes difficult. In those cases, a good ergonomic chair might not be enough. Many in this situation try out alternative work chairs. From kneeling chairs to exercise balls, these can help alleviate back pain, but not every option works for each person. Before trying out an alternative office chair, make sure to discuss your specific situation with your doctor.
Get Up and Be Active
As good as your chair and posture may be, avoid settling in a static position for too long. Take breaks and get up to stretch, ideally every 20 to 30 minutes. When you aren’t at work, be active and exercise to strengthen your back muscles and body in general.