You may have heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking.” If you have not, it is referring to the effects that a sedentary lifestyle has on the body. It has become more widely known that the effects of sedentary lifestyle on the body are detrimental to our health in many ways. Significant research has pointed to extended sitting contributing to things such as generally worse health outcomes, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Among the most common effects are back pain and joint pain. In this article, we will discuss how a sedentary lifestyle, often seen in office workers, can lead to back pain and how to address it naturally and effectively.
How Does Sitting Cause Back Pain?
According to recent publications, American adults sit an average of about 7.7 hours per day. This sedentary behavior can create significant problems including back pain. Most studies have found that approximately 80% of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their life. At Lifespring Chiropractic, we can say that after seeing thousands of patients, over 80% of them have had too much sedentary time as a contributing factor. Sitting for extended periods puts added pressure on the spinal discs, ligaments, muscles, and surrounding structures.
Our bodies are meant to be upright and moving. A common misconception is that we can get our “movement in for the day” by going to the gym or going on a walk, only to sit after for 6-8 hours of work. It is actually more beneficial to get periodic movement throughout the day, rather than a significant amount of movement followed by a full day of sitting.
How Do You Relieve Pain From Sitting Too Long?
The best solution to help combat the effects of sitting and sedentary lifestyle includes a few different modalities that help with overall spinal health. When we talk about pain in the back or neck due to sitting, it is important to remember that pain is simply a signal that our body sends to our brain, alerting us that something is wrong. It is a smart design to alert us! Think of a smoke alarm going off that lets us know there is a fire in our kitchen. The alarm is annoying, but it serves a very important purpose.
Most of us have figured out ways to turn the alarm in the kitchen off without touching the fire, such as waving a towel under it or taking the batteries out. Turns out, we have figured out how to do similar things in our body. There are many things out there that can help reduce symptoms, but not truly address the cause of the problem. Reducing the symptoms is not bad, but it’s also not effective as a long-term solution if we don’t address the cause. Let’s start with a few ways to address the symptoms before getting to the root cause.
Stretching Tight Muscles
Stretching tight muscles offers a great temporary solution to effectively reduce some of the symptoms associated with prolonged sitting and sedentary lifestyle. Some of the most common muscles that become tight are the hip flexors and the shoulder muscles such as the traps. Focusing on these two regions can be very effective in getting relief from back pain.
Using a Massage Gun or Massage Ball
A massage gun or massage ball can be another effective way to relieve symptoms that come from prolonged sitting. Some of the areas that can be most effective to use a massage gun on are the upper trapezius muscles and the quadriceps muscles. Some of the smaller muscles near bony structures should be avoided generally speaking when using a massage gun. A massage ball can also be an effective tool to treat muscle tightness. Some of the areas we generally recommend using them on are the levator scapula muscle for neck pain, and the piriformis muscle for low back pain.
Foam Rolling for Muscle Tightness
Foam rolling is another great way to offer temporary relief from the effects of sedentary lifestyle. Some of the most effective areas to foam roll for back pain are the quadriceps muscles and many of the large superficial muscles of the middle back between the shoulder blades.
Addressing the Cause of Back Pain From Sedentary Lifestyle
Most of the time the cause of our back pain comes from a lack of motion in our spinal joints. This results in tight muscles surrounding the area and usually leads to us feeling pain. Treating the muscle tightness is simply treating the symptoms, not addressing the cause. In an ideal world, we would find a way to treat both the symptoms for quick relief, while simultaneously addressing the cause of the problem. Below are 3 simple ways to treat the cause of where most back pain comes from naturally at home.
Corrective exercises are exercises that are designed to address joint dysfunction and movement patterns. Implementing home corrective exercises will start to address the true cause of where most back pain comes from. Specific testing to see which muscles need to be addressed is the most effective way to address each individual’s pain. A couple of the most common corrective exercises we recommend to people include core stability moves like bird dog, and also a glute bridge. For specifics on these or to get more of these, download our free home guide for back pain.
Spinal mobility refers to adding more mobility to the spine. Mobility is different from flexibility of the muscles, which stretching addresses. Spinal mobility can be done most effectively at home only after testing is done to see which regions of the spine need to become more mobile. Sometimes areas are actually too mobile, so we want to make sure we are not blindly treating areas because it can actually make the problem worse. The most common areas we give home mobilization exercises for are the hips and also the thoracic spine, or mid back. Some of the mobilizations can also be found in our free home pain elimination guide.
Adding in daily movement is arguably one of the most important things to combat back pain due to sedentary lifestyle and prolonged sitting. Think of a fire burning and there are two people beside this fire. One person is dumping gasoline on it, while the other is trying to put the fire out with water. These competing forces make it really challenging to put the fire out. The same is true when we are trying to get rid of back pain. Removing the competing factors, in this case, sitting or lack of movement, is extremely important. Taking a break from our workstation to walk and move around every hour is advised. Even if we have a standing desk and the best ergonomic setup, we need movement and a break.
The Most Effective Way to Treat Back Pain From Sitting
The best way to get rid of back pain is to combine the methods we have outlined above that treat symptoms and simultaneously treat the cause of the problem. Combining these with chiropractic care is the ultimate way to optimize the health of the spine. Austin chiropractors evaluate and optimize the health of the spine in many ways that can’t be done at home through specific adjustments made to joints that are not moving correctly due to a lack of movement or past injuries.
Just like seeing a dentist to treat a root canal or to get a deep cleaning is necessary. We can reduce the buildup of things showing up with good home habits, but some things are important to see an excerpt for. Not to mention that seeing a chiropractor will significantly speed up the healing time when treating back pain. What could take months to years of home plans, can be achieved sometimes in days to weeks by combining these things with a good chiropractor.
Get started with your first chiropractic evaluation at Lifespring Chiropractic today. We look forward to helping you get rid of any pain you are experiencing and getting back to the things you love without limits.