By Yajen Tan
Today, we’re sitting more than ever before and we’re starting to experience the results in the form of back pain. Whether it’s during your commute to work, at your desk all day, or your nightly Netflix binge, odds are, you’re sitting way more than your body can handle. Although sitting might be the most comfortable way to position yourself, there are way too many risks of plopping yourself down on a chair all day – one of which, manifests itself in the form of lower back pain. As miserable as it feels to have that constant aching above your hip, there are solutions to this problem that don’t require any medication.
Before I continue, I just want to point out that lower back pain can be caused by a variety of different reasons, so if your pain persists, regardless of what you try, I would recommend seeking help from a doctor or therapist, who may be able to better pinpoint the root of the problem.
Build stronger core support
One of the problems with the seated position is that it deactivates various core and lower body muscles that play a big role in supporting your weight. Two of the more important areas that I see this in are the lower back and butt. As people start losing muscle mass in these two areas, the lack of support will exacerbate existing issues in that region.
An easy way to counteract the muscular breakdown would be to strengthen these areas through exercise. If you have access to the gym, the deadlift is an amazing exercise for this situation, but if you choose to go with the deadlift, just understand that there’s a little steeper learning curve. If you don’t have gym access, or want a simple exercise to start out with, the bird dog will be your go to movement that can be done from the comfort of your home.
When performing the bird dog, you’ll want to first get on your hands and knees. Tighten your core and carefully lift one arm and the opposing leg simultaneously. Once your arm and leg reach about a 90 degree angle, pause for a split second and carefully return them back towards the ground. Your key goal throughout this exercise is to maintain a controlled, fluid motion.
Once you take the initiative to begin strengthening your lower back and core muscles, you should experience positive results about 2-3 weeks into training.
Keep your body moving
By staying seated for long periods of time, the body starts to adapt to that position by stiffening up. You probably experience this whenever you feel that need to get up and stretch after having stayed seated for long periods of time. The reality is that the human body was designed for mobility, and by engaging in regular immobile activities, like sitting, your body loses its’ ability to perform properly. To keep your body moving, try to set an alarm clock or timer to go off every 15-20 minutes, and when that timer rings, get up, stretch, or take a quick walk.
Alternate between standing and sitting
As more and more people start experiencing the consequences of too much sitting, standing desks have become popular. Although I would like you to get up and off your chair more, standing all day may not be any better for you. A better alternative would be to alternate between standing and sitting throughout the day. A couple ways to accomplish that would be do non-computer work on a clipboard or wall, taking meetings and phone calls on foot, and even standing during lunch breaks if that works for you. The goal here is to limit how many lengthy seated periods you have throughout your day.
Sitting is not an evil and we shouldn’t treat it as one, but uncontrolled sitting can be just as detrimental to our health and wellness as binge eating, excessive alcohol consumption, or in some people’s opinions – smoking. At the end of the day, the key to keep in mind is that we need balance in all that we do, and we can all stand for that.