The Vicious Combination of Back Pain and SittingAugust 6, 2018
Don’t be alarmed, but you might be hurting yourself — even hastening an early death — right now.
That’s the case, anyway, if you’re sitting down. A landmark study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that sitting for too long can literally kill you.
So we should all stand up and move more, right? Well, there’s a problem with that: many of us are paid to sit. Our jobs require it, even though many people dislike such conditions. One study found that nearly 70 percent of full-time American workers hate sitting, but close to 90 percent do it all day, every day.
Our aching lower backs
Unfortunately, the rest of our lives also revolve around sitting for long periods of time. We sit while commuting, during meals, as we watch TV, playing video games, and so on.
Consider how we contort ourselves to accommodate those activities. How we bend and twist to fit into a car, how much we slouch on a couch, how unnatural it is to sit behind a desk for up to 12 hours per day.
The entire body takes a beating from all of this, but our spines are especially vulnerable. Consider:
- The compression the discs of our spines must endure.
- The unnatural weight distribution that the ischial tuberosity must bear. (If you’re not familiar with the ischial tuberosity, they’re also called the “sitting bones.”)
- The effort the lower back exerts to prop up the top half of the body.
It isn’t surprising that so many people have back pain. What is surprising? That every single one of us doesn’t have back pain!
Lower back pain and sitting
Nearly every part of our bodies takes a beating from extended sitting. But lower back pain triggered by sitting for extended periods of time can be especially debilitative.
A chiropractor consulted for one news report put it well: “Sitting is the new smoking. You’re sitting behind a desk all day and your hip flexors are gonna shorten up. That’s eventually gonna cause low back pain.”
Noted physiotherapist Robin McKenzie champions posture modification to address low back pain, but acknowledges that everyone is different: “posture and sitting advice is specific to the individual.”
That said, McKenzie found that approximately 70% of patients get immediate relief of their low back pain with lumbar lordosis, a C-shaped curve of the spine that can be maintained with something called a lumbar roll (available at places like Amazon and Walmart).
Address your lower back pain now
The first time you hit your thumb with a hammer, it hurt a lot and it hurt immediately. The next time you pick up a hammer, you might do things a little differently to ensure that you don’t hurt yourself again.
If you sit too long, however, it can take far longer for pain and discomfort to develop. Because the potential damage caused by prolonged sitting is so significant, a few immediate lifestyle changes are possibly the best thing you can do for your future self.
- Get up and move every 30 minutes; this simple lifestyle change has more definitive benefits than using a standing desk.
- Whenever possible, walk instead of drive — to the drug store, a local grocer, and to visit friends or family
- Visit a chiropractor for a review of your spine, pain level, and triggers.
When lower back pain strikes, it can throw off your entire day, irrespective of your obligations. Debilitating discomfort can usher in a dark cloud until the pain alleviates … if it can be alleviated using any techniques you might have tried already.
People erroneously claim that a new habit can be formed in 21 days. It can actually take much longer . That means there’s no better time than right now to begin working on new, and healthier, habits. Your lower back — and the rest of you — will appreciate it.