Did you know adults generally spend 45%-50% of their waking hours sitting down? The pressure this puts on your back, the stiffness of the lumbar spine, and the reduced strength of your lower back muscles are a recipe for debilitating lower back pain. It’s unfortunate but true, in today’s world, many of us spend our entire workday hunched over a desk or chained to our computer. And once we’re done working, we find ourselves doing the exact same thing whether it’s watching Netflix, playing games, or going on our phones.
It’s no wonder that experts say that up to 80% of the population will suffer from back pain at some point. And it is not without irony that as we strive to be more efficient in our work, the back pain caused from it is also the reason that 264 million workdays are lost in a year making it the most common reason for missed work.
Luckily for you, research also shows there are a few key things you can do today to prevent and relieve back pain. These methods range from simply assuming the proper sitting position all the way to taking up yoga which is reported to be as effective as physical therapy by researchers.
Practice Correct Posture.
When you slouch or hunch, your muscles and ligaments struggle to keep you balanced and will ultimately fatigue. Now while it may be impossible for you to escape the shackles of your desk and computer, you can absolutely practice good posture and minimize the stress.
By practicing good posture, you will ensure that your spine is strong, stable, and healthy. This will minimize the amount of stress you are placing on your back and neck. Here are some best practices:
- You want to make sure that you are sitting as close as you can to your desk.
- You want to have your head upright and leveled. You don’t want to be looking up or down, you want to be looking straight.
- You want the top part of your arms above your elbows to be parallel with your back rather than at an angle.
- Make sure your hands are resting on your desk or keyboard at a 90-degree angle.
- Your thighs should be horizontal and parallel to the floor. And your feet should rest flat on the floor.
Hand in hand with having good posture is to…
Make Your Workspace Ergonomic
It’s true that your posture is essential when it comes to having good back health, and the same can be said about having an ergonomic work environment.
The first thing you want to do is adjust your armrests on your chair so that your arms are at a 90-degree angle and are parallel to the floor. You also want to make sure your forearms and your desk are at the same height.
Next, you’ll want to adjust your backrest so you’re sitting at a 100 to a 110-degree angle, avoid sitting at a 90-degree angle as this can put unwanted pressure on your spine.
Make sure that your monitor is at eye level, you don’t want your neck to be going up or down as this will cause unnecessary stress and long term problems for your neck and back.
Get Up and Move
This is one of the most vital things you can do for your back health and thankfully one of the easiest. Simply get up and move throughout your day!
You want to take short breaks at least once every hour. Get up and go to the restroom or get some water. And if you’ve got the time, take a short 10-minute walk around the block.
Studies show that even 60 seconds of getting up and doing a quick stretch is enough to offset the negative effects of sitting, which brings to our next point…
Stretching is vital to reversing and preventing some of the negative effects caused by sitting for extended periods of time. Here are some quick stretches that you can do during your workday to help you out.
- Seated Hamstring stretch
- Move to the front of your seat and place your right foot forward so you stretch your leg out. Keep the left foot flat on the ground with your knee bent.
- Keep your back straight and reach for your right toes with your right hand. Use your left hand on your left thigh to help support you.
- Hold this stretch for about 15-20 seconds.
- Now do the opposite side.
- Seated spine twist
- Cross one leg over the other. You then want to twist your upper body towards the leg that is on top.
- Hold this for 20-30 seconds and then do the other side.
- Seated Glute Stretch
- Sit firmly on a chair and then bring your right ankle up to your left knee like if you were going to sit cross-legged.
- Keep your spine straight and bend over as far as you can go. Make sure to be slow and gentle and hold for 20 seconds. Then switch over to the other side.
And if you want to take it a step further, take up yoga outside of work!
A recent study from the NCCIH found that both physical therapy and yoga offer similar benefits to people suffering from lower back pain. Both the pain reduction and increased function from yoga was similar to physical therapy and both groups were less likely to use pain medication.
Get a Massage
While it may seem like a luxury, getting regular massages can actually play a big part in back & neck health.
When the correct muscles are targeted, you can ease and relieve your pain. Some of the benefits that you get for lower back pain include:
- Improving blood circulation which helps in the recovery of muscle soreness from any physical activity.
- It relaxes your muscles which gives you an improved range of motion which helps reverse and prevent pain.
- It can also help you increase endorphin levels which helps you reduce lower back pain.
With things as stressful as they are now, it can be hard to consistently follow this list, especially since there can be a high cost involved.
Luckily there’s a product that I’ve come across that provides many of the same benefits as the actions listed above! The WonderBack Pro combines the effects of stretching and massage and costs less than a session with a massage therapist or a chiropractor.
It’s a compact traction device that naturally decompresses your spine for immediate pain relief and/or prevention. The simple design is easy for anyone to use and puts all the control in the hands of the user, so it’s safe for all ages.