Prolonged Sitting and Back Pain

Statistics show that approximately 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives. One of the most common contributing factors to back pain in this day and age is prolonged sitting, whether because of an office job that requires sitting at a desk, long distance driving, or sedentary lifestyle choices. How does prolonged sitting contribute to back pain?

Prolonged Sitting and Back Pain

Human bodies are not designed to be still or in a static position for long periods of time. We are designed to move often, whether walking, running, squatting, lifting or carrying just to do activities of daily living. Our bodies adapt to our habits, so just like starting a new exercise results in adaptations such as improved muscle strength, bone density, or cardiovascular fitness, prolonged sitting has it’s own list of adaptations. Here are some of the most significant:

Muscle Imbalances

Sitting in a hip and knee flexed position for hours at a time can cause certain muscles to become shortened (aka “tight”). These include the hip flexors, hamstrings, pecs, and upper trapezius, to name a few.

Stress on Ligaments

Poor posture is very common among desk jockeys, resulting in the typical slouched or forward head posture. This places stress on ligaments that help to support the spine and sacroiliac joints.

Stress on Inter-vertebral Disks

Spinal flexion places stress on the disks between each vertebrae, which over time can lead to a bulging or ruptured disk. This can then place pressure on the corresponding nerve root resulting in numbness, tingling, or sharp shooting pain going down an arm or leg.

What Can You Do To Avoid Back Pain?

Get out of your chair and get moving! Try for at least 5 minutes out of every 30 (you can spend those 5 minutes walking or stretching the muscles that tend to tighten as mentioned earlier). Even a few squats in front of your desk is better than nothing.

Perhaps check with your employer about having an adjustable desk where you can switch between standing and sitting.

You can also try the Workplace Workout for Seated Workers that gives pictures and descriptions of several different flexibility exercises for only $1.97.

If you are overweight, address improving your nutrition and activity habits to lose some of the extra pounds. Even 10 lb weight loss can help!