If Sitting All Day Is Hurting Your Back, Do This
According to Health, four out of five women end up with crippling back pain at some point in their lives. The leading cause for these aches is sitting in front of a computer on a daily basis. The Washington Post interviewed several medical professionals in order to put together a report on the health hazards of prolonged sitting, and the results are severely unsettling, including but not limited to the following ailments: heart disease, over-productive pancreas, foggy brain, strained neck, inflexible spine, mushy abs, tight hips, poor circulation in the legs, varicose veins, soft bones, and disc damage. If those health hazards scared you as much as they did us, learn how to prevent your sitting situation from destroying your health below.
Make sure to keep your head and neck upright, above your shoulders. Think of a piece of string connecting the top of your head to the ceiling. You should have one continuous line from your hips to your shoulder to your head. That said, the body was designed to move. So don’t be afraid of changing positions. According to Fast Company, “Walking around helps your body reset itself into healthy posture, so make a point to get up from your desk at least twice an hour.”
According to a Washington Post entitled “The Health Hazards of Sitting,” the right method to avoid lower back pain is to sit, not leaning forward, with your shoulders relaxed, your arms close to your sides, your elbows bent at 90 degrees, and your feet flat on the floor. The best way to keep this position is to have your mouse remain close to your keyboard at all times. Little arm movement puts less stress on your back.
In science, the core is still a rather nebulous term. Stuart McGill, a back-pain clinician and highly regarded professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada, tells The New York Times about his research findings: “In research at our lab the amount of load that the spine can bear without injury was greatly reduced when subjects pulled in their belly buttons” during crunches and other exercises. McGill emphasizes how a core exercise program should emphasize all of the major muscles that girdle the spine, including but not concentrating on the abs. He advises skipping traditional sit-ups in favor of side planks and the “bird dog,” an exercise in which you go on all fours and raise an alternate leg and arm. “I see too many people,” McGill says, “who have six-pack abs and a ruined back.”
Yoga is a wonderful way to shed or at least counterbalance the hours spent hunched over your desk. But even if you can’t get to a class every day, try making it to your mat. A quick five- to 10-minute stretch is all it takes to loosen your back muscles and prevent a total spasm from happening. According to Spine-Health, yoga helps strengthen specific muscles and muscle groups, which is great for people who sit for prolonged periods of time.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the research is still light on the effects of acupuncture, but as of now, we know that several studies show acupuncture often results in some benefits with a very low risk for side effects. Apparently, real acupuncture and sham acupuncture have the same effect on reducing back pain. Dan Cherkin, Ph.D., a senior investigator at Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle, states, “Acupuncture-like treatments had a positive effect overall on people’s chronic back pain. It didn’t matter if you inserted the needle or superficially poked the skin.”
Some people say foam mattresses are the best for your back. Others say hard mattresses are better. The truth is the only hard-and-fast rule is to find a mattress that allows you to maximize your personal comfort. The goal is to sleep with your spine as straight as possible. According to science, you should replace your mattress once every eight years. When you’re on the mattress hunt, rest on your favorite mattress for 20 minutes before you decide to buy. These 20 minutes tell you a lot about the object you’ll be spending a good chunk of your day on.
Science says that for lower back pain, massage may be the best cure. In our current work climate—where sitting is the new smoking—it should come as no surprise that one of the most common reasons people seek medical attention in the United States is low-back pain. And low-back pain is one of the most difficult ailments to treat. In a 10-week study treating 400 adults with moderate to severe back pain, 36% of patients in the massage group said their pain was nearly or completely gone after regular massages, compared to 4% in the usual care group (which consisted of taking pain medications, doing physical therapy, or doing nothing). Bottom line: Treat yourself to a massage every once in a while. We recommend booking with Soothe, an on-demand massage service.
A recent study out of Royal Holloway, University of London reveals that a new form of talk therapy is a promising treatment for people with chronic low-back pain who are also suffering from related psychological stress. The treatment is called contextual cognitive behavioral therapy (CCBT), and unlike traditional therapies, it focuses on accepting pain that cannot be cured and learning to live life to the full amid the pain. Regardless of whether or not you seek professional talk therapy, unleashing your stress through journaling or talking to loved ones is an effective way to reduce low-back pain.
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Have you ever suffered from severe lower-back pain? How did you overcome it? Share with us in the comments.