There are numerous factors that may contribute to back pain. Some may be more complex, requiring specialists and/or surgery to correct; others are really quite simple. A major factor contributing to back pain is poor posture. This is especially true for those who spend most of their day in a seated position. Keeping the knees and hips flexed over a lengthened period of time may actually shorten the muscles in the back of your legs (hamstrings), and the muscles on the front of your hips (hip flexors).
Making matters worse, many of us tend to “slouch” in our chairs; rounding our shoulders forward, collapsing into our mid-backs, and shortening our abdominal muscles. Without proper posture, our spine is no longer carrying our weight evenly distributed, there is strain placed on major muscle groups, and imbalances between muscle groups are created.
When poor posture is not corrected, it may contribute to conditions like kyphosis or lordosis (exaggerated curvature of the spine), severe headaches, degeneration in the discs, and even a reduced lung function. Luckily, many of these conditions can be avoided if proper care is given.
Here are a few tips to ward off back stiffness and more serious issues:
While sitting at work:
“90 degree rule”: Make sure to adjust your chair and desk so that your knees and hips are bent at a 90 degree angle
Make sure your forearms can rest comfortably on the desk with your wrists maintaining a neutral position while working
Move often. Make minor adjustments to your posture frequently, get up to move around as often as possible
Sit up tall: create as much length in the spine as comfortable, pull the belly button in towards your spine and draw it up towards y
heart towards the top of your monitor, keep your neck long with your throat open (avoid tipping your head back though). You may need to adjust your monitor, ideally the top 1/3 of the screen should be about eye level
Check that your chair “fits you”: ie the lumbar supports fits nicely into your lower back, the arm rests aren’t too low or too high, the seat is sturdy yet comfortable…
Open your chest by placing your shoulder blades onto your back, you can imagine like you are trying to put your shoulder blades in your back pockets. Gently move them together and pull them down (very gentle on this as we don’t want to constantly be pulling on the neck by pushing our shoulders down)
“Stack your joints”: Keep your ears over your shoulders, which are over your hips
Consistency is key! Set reminders on your computer or phone to correct your posture often. You may find it awkward at first, but the more you practise the more natural it will feel. Stop in for an assessment, adjustment, or therapeutic massage to help manage your discomfort.