Is work turning into one big pain in the back? We’re not a bit surprised. These days, researchers are calling sitting the new smoking, and being bloggers who sit in front of a computer all day, we get why. It doesn’t even matter how cushy your chair may be. The fact is, staying in a seated position from the time you take the first heavenly sip of morning coffee to that whew moment you wrap up your day means you may be causing yourself some serious back problems. And we can’t have that.
Why does it happen and what can you do about it?
According to the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group, Canadian adults spend about three-quarters of their time doing sedentary activities. So if you’re devoting most of your day parked behind a desk, it’s time to tune in here. The experts at the Ontario Chiropractic Association know this story well and they can save you back stress you definitely don’t need.
Why Sitting Still Causes Back Pain
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, too many of us who work in a sitting position suffer back pain, muscle tenderness and body aches. And it’s no wonder.
Sitting requires your muscles to hold your abdomen, neck and shoulders in a fixed position, squeezing the blood vessels and reducing blood flow, making you feel tired. You’re also putting strain on your muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments, making them more prone to injury. Prolonged sitting creates a steady compression of the spinal discs and keeps them from getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Research shows that among workers, those who spend most of their day in a seated position had the highest rate of hospitalization for low back pain injury, suggesting that when injuries happen they are quite severe. These serious occupational health problems will likely become increasingly common as more and more jobs demand workers to remain in a seated position.
What You Can Do About Work-Related Back Pain
If your work is killing your back, you need to take control of the situation now—just like this:
1. SIT STRAIGHT.
Keep an eye on your posture. First, strengthen your core by practicing “active sitting” where you sit with your feet flat on the ground in front of you, your back straight, your shoulders squared and your ears in-line with your shoulders. Remember that the stronger your core, the easier it will be to maintain good posture.
2. GO ERGONOMIC.
Invest in a good office chair. To prevent injury and strain, it’s important to vary your sitting position throughout the day. Choose an ergonomic chair that is easily adjustable, properly supports your lower back, accommodates your size and offers a sturdy, comfortable seat with a front edge that curves downward to promote proper posture. And don’t ignore armrests, a footrest and an adjustable tilt seat pan to further customize your workstation for your needs.
3. CHANGE IT UP.
Some desk dwellers have begun using stability balls instead of regular office chairs. Alternate between the ball and your chair to periodically change your position and strengthen your core. However, stability balls should not completely replace office chairs and are not suited for everyone. If you want to try it out, consult your chiropractor first.
Another option is a sit-stand workstation, which involves a fully-adjustable office desk that will allow you to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.
4. DON’T FORGET TO BREAK.
A workday should always include taking frequent breaks. In fact, you should move or change positions every 30 to 45 minutes. Try a lunchtime stroll, visit a co-worker’s desk, schedule “walking meetings” or incorporate “stretch breaks” into longer group sessions or throughout the day to free muscles from their fixed positions and boost your energy to tackle the rest of your workday.
5. STRETCH IT OUT.
It’s important to stretch throughout the day to increase circulation, decrease aches and pains, and maintain perfect posture. Interlace your fingers, place them behind your head and gently push your head into your hands to loosen your neck muscles. To stretch your chest and the front of your body, place your hands on either side of your spine, roll your shoulders back and lift the heart up towards the ceiling.
6. USE A MOBILE APP.
Need a bit of help? Canada’s chiropractors have developed Straighten Up Canada, a mobile app that offers an easy-to-perform posture program you can do right at your desk. Specifically designed and dedicated to improving posture and spinal health, the program offers 12 unique posture exercises, how-to photos and videos, and personal reminders to help keep you active and aligned. The app is free to download on iOS, Android and Blackberry devices.
7. YOU NEED FOOD FOR THOUGHT.
You may be swamped but don’t forget just how important it is to eat well. Arming yourself with the proper nutrients can do wonders for your mind and body. A balanced meal gives you the fuel you need to keep your energy up, your body nimble and your mind sharp.
8. GET UP AND MOVE.
If you can fit in a mini workout every day, that’s some really valuable medicine for your back. Whether it be for three or thirty minutes, physical activity in the middle of the work day will not only stave off those weekday blues but help you stay active, motivated and more relaxed.
9. BOTTOMS UP!
We’ve said it before and we’ll never stop. Never underestimate the power of water. No matter the season, always drink lots of it. Staying hydrated helps your body maintain its soft tissue elasticity and the fluid in your joints that keep you mobile.
To find a local chiropractor and more info on how to take care of your back, bones, muscles, joints and central nervous system, check out the Ontario Chiropractic Association website.