Most of the people our doctors treat share two goals: to get out of pain, and to get back to doing the things they love. But sometimes your goal can be as simple as getting through the workday without soreness, stiffness and pain.
Low back pain and soreness is a common problem for people who sit for long periods of time at work. But don't despair. This post helps you understand what's causing your back pain, and gives you a few easy movements to help you get through the workweek pain free.
IS WORK A PAIN IN THE... BACK?
Work is where a lot of us first notice pain in our back, shoulders, or neck. Sitting for long periods of time is a common cause of pain at work. Most of us are spending more time sitting than any previous generation. Progress and technological innovation are making this an amazing and exciting time to be alive, but with that progress comes a lot of time seated, staring at screens. And with sitting comes back pain.
There is a direct correlation between sitting for long periods of time and low back pain. Prevention is key. You can help prevent low back pain by understanding why prolonged sitting makes your back hurt, and by learning a few movements that can help correct these issues.
FIRST, UNDERSTAND WHAT'S CAUSING THE PROBLEM
There are three primary areas of your body that are impacted by the seated position, so know this.
1. Sitting shortens muscles. Shortened muscles cause pain.
Hamstrings: When seated, your knees are bent and your hips are flexed. Your hamstring are in a shortened position, rather than elongated. Your hamstrings play a major role in the position of your pelvis, and your pelvis decides the curvature of your lower back. If you hamstring begin to lose flexibility, your lower back is susceptible to injury.
Hip flexors: Your hips flexors can become shorter as a result of sitting for long hours. Your primary hip flexor attaches to each of the lumbar vertebra in your lower back. Tight hip flexors change the curvature of your lumbar spine and increase the likelihood of injury.
2. There is a big difference between a short muscle and weak muscle.
Just because a muscle is short doesn’t mean you can simply stretch it and call it a day. Sometimes the muscle needs to be strengthened, too. Keep that in mind.
3. Posture is key. Your body follows your attention.
When hands are on a keyboard and eyes are fixed forward on a screen, your shoulders will begin to follow. This will lead to a rounded back, head-forward position. This over-stretches and weakens muscles in your shoulders and back.
MOVEMENTS to avoid a sore back at work
You must reactivate the muscle groups that become shortened or over-stretched throughout the day. Don’t worry - it’s a lot easier than it sounds. Here are three simple exercises to reset your body and keep your attention on what matters — your work.
Aim to master a proper hip hinge (without the cringe). Healthy hinges teach your body to put the load in your glutes instead of your lower back–they’re paramount to maintaining a healthy and happy spine–whether you’re picking up socks from the floor or a 300lb barbell.
If you haven’t done this movement in a while, you can bet it’s going to feel awkward. Give it time and put your focus on pushing your hips straight back, away from your heels.
Building a strong core is the best way to maintain healthy posture throughout your work day. Hold this exercise while pulling your elbows toward your feet and squeezing your glutes. You’ll be on the express train to Fatigue-ville, USA. Don’t forget to breathe! Take deep breaths will a full exhale. Pretend like you are blowing up a balloon. Have fun ;)
This drill is more about activating than stretching. But yes, you are going to feel a good stretch in your hip flexors and possibly the top of your quad. However, the stretch only counts if you are able to maintain a strong, consistent glute contraction and a brace through the core. Pretend like your hips represent a bucket filled with water. Spill the water out the back by squeezing the stabilizing glute and core as hard as you can (while breathing comfortably, of course).
Knowing is half the battle
Thanks for reading this blog. I see it as my job as a healthcare obligation to not only help you get out of pain as fast as possible, but also prevent pain through education. Our goal is to give you a resource to help keep your body happy and healthy during the work day.
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If you are are currently dealing with low back pain at work - please don’t hesitate to make an appointment to see us. It’s our job to help you live your best life.
- Sean Masters, Co-Founder and Director of Rehab