You maybe wondering why I have such a strong opinion when it comes to sitting? Well in this post I will tell you about some critical ways sitting impacts on your lower back, some of which I have experienced first hand working as a computer programmer in my profession. While I’m here, I will also give you some ideas on what you can do to help yourself day to day which I hope you will find useful and hopefully give you the motivation to take some action in the form of trying the various ideas I put forward.
Problems from Sitting All Day
I won’t lie to you, I still sit despite what I’ve just said. I have to, it’s my job. However, the difference now is that I’m much more educated following the pains I went through a few years ago. I’ll give you a little background of my daily grind a few years ago:
Wake up in the morning, often times skipping breakfast. Sit in the car and drive for 1.5 hours to work. Get to work and Sit at my desk programming away on what ever project I’ve been assigned from 9am till around 12 noon (I may get up once or twice for No. 1 or 2). At 12 noon I’ll grab a bite to eat, take a stroll and then guess what? Yep, I’ll be back at my desk coding away like a typical code monkey until 5.30pm, at which point I’ll jump in the car and drive back home for another 1.5hrs, have dinner, and Sit my backside down on either the Sofa or at the Desk to pretend I’m working hard and being productive!
This was the typical scenario when I was a bachelor Monday to Friday, and here's what happens with this typical routine:
Sitting for long periods of time will cause certain muscle groups to become deactivated. Why? Well, you are not using them, so the brain thinks it’s being clever to preserve energy and hence it will turn off these areas which will lead to weaknesses, also known as muscle atrophy.Pay close attention now, the muscle groups that switch off are the same muscle groups that help you keep your posture correctly aligned when sitting, keep you physically strong and healthy from injury and support your body when sitting. See below image to get an idea of the message I'm trying to drive home:
Your Neck and Upper back help in holding your body upright, your lower back and abs are utilised in any moment you make when it comes to bending, walking. Your glutes I see as the foundation for helping you stabilise and support your lower back, along with your abs.
When these areas of your body become weakened, you will naturally resort to slouching and sitting hunched at your desk. It will feel like too much effort to sit correctly, or you may even experience pain from doing so and will hence avoid it.
As this becomes your natural habit, the following problems will show themselves on your body:
You will start to put pressure on your spine and spinal discs due to your muscle groups not supporting you appropriately. This will in turn lead to an injury such as a slipped disc which can also cause sciatic pain depending on the severity of the injury
Trust me, I should know ? It was this lifestyle & working habit that lead to my injury.
So, what options are available to us with back pain from sitting all day?
5 Solutions For Back Pain From Sitting All Day
I see many people asking on various forums for help and advise on what chair to use, how they should sit to help their posture etc. I also often see people recommending expensive chairs that they use which they find comfortable as suggestions.BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE I BELIEVE THAT MOST CHAIRS ARE NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE IF YOU ARE USING THEM EVERYDAY FOR PROLONGED PERIODS.
I’m not going to suggest you look for an expensive chair that is comfortable. In FACT, you need the opposite to keep you moving.
Below I am going to put forward various ideas which you can try without breaking the bank balance.1 - The Kneeling Chair
It looks weird - Correct. There is NO back rest - Correct. It's significantly CHEAPER than the so called ergonomic chairs! - Correct.
I highly recommend using a kneeling chair if you suffer from lower back problems. I use it myself and believe it has been a major factor in helping me solve my lower back pain and improving my posture.
Using a knee chair will allow you to sit with an open angled position which encourages a healthier body posture. This position also allows your back to form its natural curvature and relieve compression from your spine and discs something that is commonly aggravated when sitting all day for long periods using a regular office chair.
I have also found that If you have a habit of leaning forwards while working (like I do), the knee chair allows you to do this without putting pressure on your lower back, something that is very common and can cause pain using a regular office chair if you suffer from back pain.2 - Sit Move Cushion
3 - Standing Desk
This air-filled wedge which has a similar feel to sitting on a gym ball, without the footprint. Using this will keep your body in motion which will work your stomach and back muscles to help increase core strength. It will take the weight of the lower back and is ideal if you move around a lot as it’s easy to carry along with you.
More and more people are taking up the option of working standing up these days. With electric driven height adjustments or ones that use a crank, a standing desk gives you the best of both worlds.
4 - Drink Water
5 - Swiss Ball
Drinking water while working is a great way to give yourself multiple benefits. The great thing about it is that it will make you go to the lavetory often which can act as a great reminder as you will be forced to standup and walk, as opposed to relying on a timer or memory which you can easily snooze when working.
Exercise ball diameterPerson's height55 cm 5'1"– 5'8" 65 cm 5'9"– 6'2" 75 cm 6'3"– 6'7" 85 cm 6'8" and taller.
If you have the space, a swiss ball can be great for using as a chair. Although I'm not sure how practical they are in an office environment. Similar to the Sit & Move cushion, a swiss ball promotes active sitting and you will be greatly using your abs and lower back muscles to keep stable while sitting.There are different sizes available for the swiss ball and I would recommend you do a little research into what size would benefit you for sitting. For example here is a chart when choosing a swiss ball for exercise. If you go the gym or have access to one near by, pop over and try them out for size.
An alternative variation for the swiss is one that comes with a back rest. However although this defeats the idea of active sitting as you can lean back, I do feel it would give you the best of both worlds while utilising your core.
I hope I have given you some good ideas on ways to improve your health and posture when sitting everyday for long periods.
I hope I have also educated you a little on why we tend to slouch which may simply be natural to our body due to tired and weak muscle groups.
My own sitting regime at work consists of a combination of mainly using a kneeling chair and normal office chair which I tend to switch between depending on how my back is feeling.
A good thing about the kneeling chair is that it can simply be put away under the desk when not in use and out of sight. When working at home I tend to stand combined with a kneeling chair and a normal office chair.
One last thing before I wrap up is the importance of stretching if you are desk based daily, check out my post on a stretching routine here to help you.
Until next time...