Preventing and Alleviating Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common medical conditions and can result from a variety of factors, including sports activities, accidents, and the effects of aging on the body. Another major, and often overlooked, cause of back pain is prolonged sitting.

Unfortunately, if you have a desk job, you probably sit for at least eight hours a day, and for five or more days per week. To make matters worse, you also sit during your commute, and even during your break time.

Improving your posture and the ergonomics of your workspace can help reduce your risk of back pain, and even relieve existing back pain, but they can do little to counteract the other negative health effects of prolonged sitting.

Below are some additional ways to prevent and alleviate back pain, and reap other health benefits as well.

how to prevent backpain

Get Standing

One of the best ways to avoid sitting-related back pain is to avoid sitting. Even if you job literally anchors you to your desk, it’s unlikely that you are actually anchored to your chair. Consider spending at least some of your desk time standing, such as when you’re taking long calls. To avoid that “down the well” effect that you get from standing far away from the speakerphone, consider wearing a headset instead.

If you have some control over the furniture options in your office, consider investing in standing and adjustable height desks, which can adjust up and down to allow you to work comfortably from a standing position. Healthy Desks lists more of the benefits of these desks on their site.

Standing at work isn’t your only option. If you have a long commute on public transportation, and standing is an option, you should consider doing so for all or most of the trip. On your lunch break, consider standing at a counter rather than sitting at a table.

Get Away

Spending as little time at your desk as possible is another option for avoiding sitting-induced back pain. If your job does not require you to remain at your desk, you could do things like walk to other people’s workspaces to talk to them in person, rather than calling, sending emails, or talking across the room. If face-to-face communication isn’t your style, then you can take frequent breaks to walk to the break room, or step outside for some fresh air.

Get Moving

Regular exercise gets your heart rate up, your blood flowing, and strengthens the muscles that are often weakened by periods of prolonged sitting. When used in combination with reducing the total amount of time you spend sitting, it can also counteract some of the other negative health effects.

You don’t have to spend hours at the gym; in fact, you can get positive benefits from as little as 30 minutes of exercise a day. You don’t even have to do it all at once; a few minutes of movement throughout the day is as good as one long session.

You can also incorporate movement into your after-work activities, such as pedaling on an exercise bike, or walking a treadmill while watching TV.

Get Stretching

Sitting causes two things to happen to the muscles in your body:

The muscles on the front of your body, such as the hip flexors, abs, pectorals, and neck muscles, become over-flexed;

The muscles on the back of your body, such as your glutes, the spinal muscles, and shoulder muscles, become overstretched.

The end result is that all the muscles become tight and constricted, which reduces blood flow, and results in muscle imbalances that can cause back pain.

Stretches that extend the muscles on the front of your body can relieve the tightness in the front and rear of your body, and can relieve and reduce your risk of back pain. Stretches also encourages blood flow, delivering important nutrients to your muscles.

Get a Massage

Like stretching, massage relieves tightness in your muscles and alleviates or reduces the risk of back pain. Massage also encourages blood flow to deliver vital nutrients throughout your body.

Things to Consider

Most back pain will resolve on its own, however there are instances where back pain is a sign of a more serious problem, such as a herniated disk, or a bone condition.

Consult your physician if standing, movement, stretching, or massage do not resolve your back pain, or if your back pain worsens. You should also talk to your doctor if your back pain disrupts your sleep, if you have difficulty controlling your bowels or bladder, or if your back pain is accompanied by a fever, headache, nausea and other signs of illness.