Back pain is one of the leading causes of injury, and research suggests that 90 percent of people are going to experience back pain at some point in their lives. Oftentimes people tweak their back during athletic activity or exercise, but a lot of us are actually doing more damage to our backs when we’re sedentary. That’s because millions of Americans sit a lot throughout their day.
Think about your average day. If you work in an office, you may spend more than half your day on your hind end. For example, you sit in your car on the way to the office, you sit at your desk for hours on end then you remain seated when you drive home. Maybe you work in some activity when you get home, but if you’re like most Americans, your night involves parking down on the couch to read a book or watch some TV.
And that’s not the worst of it. It’s not just that we’re sitting all the time, it’s that we’re sitting incorrectly, and that’s putting a lot of pressure on our spine.
That’s because sitting puts nearly twice the stress on the spine as standing does, and slouching forward only exacerbates the problem. When you hunch forward, it pushes your back into the dreaded convex or “C” shape. It also fatigues and overstretches ligaments in the back, which can cause pain. Poor posture also hurts your back by tightening and shortening your hip flexor, which limits pelvic rotation and can increase load bearing on your back.
If you ignore the warning signs of back pain, you may just end up on the operating table. Here are some tips to keep your back and spine in good shape.
Move – Moving is key to great back health. Stand up and straighten your back every 15-30 minutes, and consider doing routine work activities while standing. Take that phone call while standing or install a standing workstation to keep pressure off your spine.
Focus – Our bodies naturally start to slouch after long seated periods, but you can combat poor posture by reminding yourself to regularly check your posture. You can’t correct your posture if you aren’t aware that you’re sitting inappropriately, so make a mental note to check your posture.
Chair Position– Our chair position can contribute to poor posture. If your chair is far away from your computer, or you have it set too low, you’ll naturally begin to slouch forward. Keep your chair up at an appropriate level and you won’t be inclined to lean forward.
Stretch – Along with moving, stretching and exercise is key to keeping your back healthy. It strengthens muscles, builds flexibility and it allows our vertebrae and disks to get the nutrients they need. Make sure you stretch your back out after long sitting periods, and try to add an hour of moderate exercise to your daily routine.
If those modifications don’t work, and anti-inflammatory medications don’t take care of the problem, speak to a processional. You may be dealing with a condition that requires surgery or a related intervention technique.