- Is Your Office Chair Causing Your Back Pain?
- What is the problem with sitting?
- What you want in your office chair
- What you can do
- Back Pain At The Office
- Common Causes of Office Back Pain
- How to Reduce Back Pain at Work
- 1. Create an Ergonomic Workspace
- 2. Choose the Right Office Chair
- 3. Practice Good Posture
- 4. Practice Proper Movements
- 5. Take Frequent Short Breaks
- 6. Wear Supportive Shoes
- Treatments for Office Back Pain
- Find Back Pain Relief With Spine Institute of North America
- Lower Back Pain? This is the right way to sit at your office desk
- How Should I be Sitting at my Desk?
- 1. Keep Your Back at a Right Angle
- 2. Keep Your Head Up
- 3. Keep everything in Reach
- 4. Adjusting Your Chair
- 5. Invest in Your Lower Back
- 6. Take Regular Breaks
- The Right Lower Back Pain Relief
- Your Office Chair Is Hurting You
- Elemental: How does your work as an epidemiologist encourage you to educate people on the health implications of constantly sitting?
- What is it about sitting that’s so risky for our health?
- What’s the biggest problem with most standard office chairs?
- Speaking of ergonomics, it seems sitting disease is more of a mindset problem than a chair problem. Do you think traditional ergonomics perpetuate “sitting disease”?
- What about trendy alternative options to crappy office chairs, yoga balls?
- And standing desks? Could those help?
- Do you have a big-picture plan for preventing sitting disease?
- Low Back Pain Coping Tips
Is Your Office Chair Causing Your Back Pain?
- Posted on: Sep 30 2017
- By: DFW Spine Center
Our backs weren’t built for our modern lifestyles.
Most of us now sit in an office every day for work and our office chairs aren’t usually very helpful. An office chair without adequate support can create a great deal of stress on the lower back.
At DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, we want to keep your back pain free, so here is some information on how to manage your work chair and to sit all day.
What is the problem with sitting?
Above we said that sitting all day in a chair that doesn’t provide adequate back support can cause or exacerbate lower back pain.
Why does it do this? When you are seated, the lumbosacral discs at the base of the spine are loaded three times more than when you are standing.
If your chair doesn’t have adequate spine support, this will lead to poor posture, which stresses the soft tissues and joints in the spine leading to pain.
Part of the problem is also the way we sit. If we sit and shift our weight forward in our desk chair, this also increases stress on the soft tissue, joints, and discs. This leads to muscle tension and back pain.
Plus, it’s not as if we’re only sitting at work. We spend long periods sitting on our commute, at home watching TV, watching kids’ T-ball games, and other times. This can lead to habitual bad posture such as hunching or slouching.
What you want in your office chair
It’s easy to think that our spine is relatively straight, but the lower portion of the spine just above the buttocks naturally curves inward toward the belly.
This is known as the lordotic curve. What’s important is to provide support to this area of the back.
A lumbar back support helps promote good posture by filling the gap between the lumbar spin (which is curving inward) and the seat.
When your chair provides this kind of support, the muscles surrounding the spine are relieved of much of their job of having to keep the spine naturally curved. The lumbar support does the job, taking pressure off the muscles, reducing the muscle tension that can lead to back pain.
But when your chair doesn’t provide lumbar support, it’s difficult to maintain correct posture.
Without support, your lumbar spine and the large muscles in your lower back have to work to support the proper spine curvature and alignment. Over the day, as the body tires, the muscles holding the spine in the correct position weaken.
To compensate, we tend to push our head and upper back forward. This forward lean leads to more muscle tension and eventual back pain.
What you can do
Beyond having lumbar support in your chair (which can be supplied by a simple pillow if the chair doesn’t provide it), there are positions to best support your back and neck.
- Your office chair should have elbow supports to limit neck strain. Elbows should rest on the elbow supports at right angles.
- Your knees should be bent at a right angle. Use a footrest to attain this, if necessary.
- Your eyes should look straight ahead at your computer screen, not downward.
If you’re suffering from lower back pain, your office chair may be the culprit, or it may be something else. Call the team at DFW Center for Spinal Disorders, 817-916-4685, and we’ll help you get past the pain.
Posted in: Back Pain, Neck Pain
Back Pain At The Office
If you work in an office and spend the majority of your day sitting down, you are probably not a stranger to back pain. Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day can lead to stiffness and tension that causes serious discomfort while working.
If your job requires you to twist or bend frequently, you may be at even higher risk of developing back pain.
Between 50 and 80 percent of people will experience back pain at least once in their life, and during a single year about 20 percent of adults suffer from back pain.
Back pain can range from sharp and sudden pain, such as from twisting or moving abruptly, to a constant and dull ache that develops over time. Back pain may be acute, lasting only a few weeks, or chronic, lasting twelve weeks or longer.
Lower back pain that lasts between four and twelve weeks is called subacute. In most cases, lower back pain is short-term and will go away naturally with proper self-care. However, about 20 percent of people who experience acute back pain later develop chronic back pain.
As a person gets older, they are also more ly to develop back pain and chronic back pain.
When working in a sedentary office job, lower back pain can develop from physical inactivity, incorrect posture or a poorly designed workspace. How you move can also aggravate existing back pain. Luckily, by adjusting your workspace and developing healthy habits, you can prevent and reduce back pain at work.
Common Causes of Office Back Pain
Poor posture is one of the most common causes of office back pain. During the workday, a person may slide forward in their chair, slouch or lean towards their computer.
Fatigue can also encourage employees to have an overly relaxed posture while sitting or standing. These positions can stretch spinal ligaments too much and stress your spinal discs.
Holding a phone between your ear and shoulder for an extended time can also create tension in your spine.
The design of a workspace can also contribute to poor posture or strained movements. If an employee must twist or reach frequently, they are ly to develop back pain. A cramped workspace can also cause tension if employees cannot move freely. Office chairs that do not offer proper lumbar support and other ergonomic features may encourage poor posture that leads to back pain.
Sitting for an extended period of time without standing or stretching also contributes to office back pain. Experiencing little movement during the day can compress the intervertebral discs in your spine and push the water them.
This causes your spinal discs to bulge, which puts pressure on your spinal nerve. Pressure on your spinal nerve can lead to numbness and tingling in the back and a pain that radiates from your spine.
Spinal nerve pain may also increase when sitting and cause difficulty walking or standing.
Other factors that may cause office back pain include stress, an unhealthy lifestyle and lack of exercise. Stress and anxiety can lead to muscle tension and may cause a person to perceive their pain more severely. Excess body weight and muscle weakness can also add pressure to your spine and cause back pain.
How to Reduce Back Pain at Work
Office back pain can be prevented by creating proper office ergonomics and improving your posture. Practicing safe movements can also prevent back pain before it starts.
If back pain does develop, increasing your activity levels and creating a healthier lifestyle can offer some relief.
If you want to prevent or manage back pain at work, consider these six tips for reducing office back pain.
1. Create an Ergonomic Workspace
In an ergonomic workspace, employees can reach everything they need without straining. Proper office ergonomics also encourage good posture by adjusting the height of desks, chairs and monitors. Below are a few tips for creating an ergonomic workspace:
- Position everything within arm’s reach: Instead of straining to reach pens, tape or your telephone, position all items that you use frequently within arm’s reach. Keep your computer mouse next to your keyboard and your keyboard close to you. Make sure you can reach anything you need without leaning or stretching.
- Adjust your monitor height: Raise or lower your monitor so the top of your monitor is at eye level. Your gaze should fall naturally on the area of your screen that you look at most often so you do not have to tilt your head or lean forward.
- Adjust monitor brightness and size: If the brightness on your computer screen is too low, you are more ly to lean towards your screen. If you need to squint to read something, consider adjusting the size of your font so you can maintain good posture while reading comfortably.
- Adjust your desk or chair height: Make sure your work surfaces are at comfortable heights, and you are not leaning forwards or straining upwards. If your chair and desk are at the correct height, your elbows should form a 75 to 90-degree angle when your hands are on the surface of your desk, and you are sitting up straight.
2. Choose the Right Office Chair
Choosing a good office chair can also play a significant role in promoting proper posture. Below are a few things to look for in an ergonomic office chair:
- Adjustable height: Choose a desk chair that allows you to adjust the height so your elbows can sit at a comfortable angle with your desk.
- Adjustable backrest: If your desk chair has an appropriate seat depth, there should be 2 to 4 inches between your calves and the front of the chair when sitting with your back against the backrest. Choose an office chair with the right seat depth or one that has an adjustable backrest.
- Adjustable armrests: The armrests of your desk chair should lift your shoulders slightly to reduce the strain on your upper back. When armrests are adjusted correctly, you will also be less prone to slouching.
- Lumbar support: Choose an office chair that provides support to your lower back. Lumbar support encourages the proper curvature of your back to reduce tension and pressure. If your office chair does not have lower back support, consider using a small pillow behind your back to improve your posture.
- Comfortable material: A good office chair will have soft and padded seat material that makes it comfortable to sit throughout the workday.
- Able to swivel: If you have to rotate or turn frequently, choose a chair that swivels so you do not have to twist your torso. This will allow you to rotate while maintaining good posture.
3. Practice Good Posture
When sitting for long periods of time, it is easy to begin to slouch or lean unknowingly.
Over time, this poor posture can cause serious back pain that can lead to chronic back problems if not corrected early.
Using good posture minimizes the gravitational pressure on your spine for improved comfort and reduced risk of back pain. Here are some tips for practicing good posture when sitting:
- Keep your head and neck aligned directly above your shoulders.
- Keep your back against the backrest of your chair.
- Keep your shoulders back and square with your computer screen.
- Keep your upper arms parallel to your spine by moving your chair close to your desk.
- Keep your feet flat on the ground and do not cross your legs.
- Keep your knees at a 90-degree angle and use a footrest if necessary.
When adjusting your posture, remember to keep your body relaxed. If you already experience office back pain, a stiff posture can increase neck and back pain.
4. Practice Proper Movements
Back pain at work is often caused by jarring movements such as lifting something incorrectly or twisting your body in an awkward way. However, by maintaining good posture during all movement and activities, you can prevent and reduce back pain. Use these tips for practicing proper movements in the office:
- Lift from the knees: Many office jobs require minimal lifting of heavy objects, but if you do need to lift a case of printer paper or box of files, be sure to practice correct lifting techniques. Bend at the knees and hold the object close to your stomach while lifting. Keep your back straight while lifting and avoid twisting your torso. If an object is too heavy to lift, ask a coworker for help.
- Walk with good posture: Keep your shoulders back and chin up while walking around the office. Stand tall to stretch out your back after sitting at your desk.
- Use a hands-free phone: Instead of tilting your head to hold your telephone on your shoulder, consider switching to a hands-free device, such as a headset or speakerphone. If a hands-free phone is not an option, switch between your right and left side during long phone calls.
- Keep movements relaxed: If you are already experiencing back pain, it can be difficult to move naturally. However, unless you have a fracture or more serious back problem, continuing to move in a relaxed manner can alleviate your back pain. Limiting your motion and flexibility can cause more back pain, which leads to more stiffness. This cycle can cause acute back pain to develop into chronic back pain over time.
5. Take Frequent Short Breaks
When working long hours at a desk, it is important to take frequent short breaks to get up and move around. Ideally, employees should stretch their back and legs at least once every hour by taking a walk and performing stretches.
Even a short one minute walk can be very beneficial for preventing back pain. If frequent breaks are not possible, try to stretch at least three times during your workday.
You can even perform dynamic stretches while moving from room to room in your office.
Incorporating other relaxation techniques into your workday can also be very beneficial. Practice proper breathing techniques to help elongate your spine. Doing yoga can also reduce stress and physical tension.
6. Wear Supportive Shoes
If you walk around your office frequently, choose comfortable shoes instead of high heels. High-heeled shoes can negatively affect the alignment of your spine and body, which harms your posture. Supportive and comfortable shoes will also improve your back comfort when standing for a long time.
If you must stand on a hard surface, consider placing a padded floor mat under your workstation. Even if you sit for the majority of your day, high-heels can still affect your sitting posture by changing the angle of your knees. Choose low-heeled shoes that encourage proper posture at all times.
Treatments for Office Back Pain
If you are already experiencing back pain in the office, several home treatments may reduce your lower back pain. Lifestyle changes can also improve your overall health, making it easier to maintain good posture at work. Below are a few tips for treating lower back pain:
- Use hot or cold packs: When experiencing back pain at work, using a cold or hot pack on your back may offer temporary relief. Cold packs can reduce inflammation and numb sore tissues in the back. Hot packs can also help release tension and increase mobility.
- Strengthen your core: Strengthening your abdominal and back muscles can naturally improve your posture and reduce the risk of back pain. A strong core provides better support for your upper body and helps prevent back injuries in the future.
- Stay active: If you spend the majority of your workday sitting, try to stay active in your free time. Exercise regularly throughout the week instead of exercising only on the weekends. A sedentary week followed by a strenuous workout can lead to injury or pain. When starting an exercise plan, begin slowly and build up to more intense workouts.
- Stretch: Keep your muscles loose by stretching your back and shoulders regularly. Neck and shoulder rolls can also help relieve back tension at work.
- Sleep well: How you sleep during the night can have a big impact on your comfort during the day. Sleep on a firm surface that provides proper support and use a pillow to align your head and shoulders. Sleep on your side or back, rather than on your stomach. To release pressure from your spine, try sleeping on your side with your knees drawn to your chest.
- Eat well: A healthy diet with regular exercise can help reduce excess body weight, which contributes to back pain. Choose a diet that fulfills your daily intakes of Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus to promote bone strength and new bone growth.
These methods of relieving back pain can be very beneficial for acute and subacute back pain. Chronic back pain or more severe back pain may require additional treatments, such as physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, medications or even surgery. Before your back pain becomes serious, take measures to create an ergonomic workspace and practice good habits for back health.
Find Back Pain Relief With Spine Institute of North America
Back pain at work can range from dull acute pain to severe chronic back pain that disrupts daily life. Even short-term back pain can have serious impacts on your ability to focus and work comfortably.
Because we understand that pain is a complex symptom, the specialists at Spine Institute of North America will design a pain management plan that is tailored to you and your back pain.
Spine Institute of North America offers a wide variety of treatment options for pain including therapies, medications, injections and surgeries. Our physicians can draw on multiple disciplines to offer the right treatment and prevention techniques for you.
If you are ready for relief from back pain, contact Spine Institute of North America to learn more about our pain management options and take the next step towards comfort.
This content was medically reviewed by Baher Yanni, M.D, on January 31st, 2019.
Lower Back Pain? This is the right way to sit at your office desk
Work has the tendency to be a pain. Fast approaching deadlines, tough clients, and difficult co-workers are known to be a prevailing cause. However, if you aren’t watching the way you sit at your desk – the pain you experience at work can be more of a physical nature. Right now, lower back pain will affect over 80 percent of working Canadians at some point in their working life.
If you find that waking up on the right side of the bed and putting a good day of work is becoming impossible because of your lower back pain, then we urge you to take the following advice into account.
How Should I be Sitting at my Desk?
There are many little things we do each day that negatively affect our posture. Most of them occur while we are on our computers, which is what offers workers spend 95% of their work day in front of.
It’s easier to keep a good posture if you are setup to do so. By following the right procedures at your desk, your lower back pain, as well as your overall health can become vastly improved.
Additionally, proper office ergonomics can increase productivity by an average of 11%!
1. Keep Your Back at a Right Angle
Slouching is the enemy of lower back pain. It’s important to keep your back at a 90-degree angle at all time. Adjusting the back of your chair to about 10 degrees further back should help maintain that posture. reclined angle. It’s important that both your upper and lower back be supported at all times.
2. Keep Your Head Up
This step will ly require the most focus. Try to keep your head and neck right above your shoulders. Keep your head straight and keep whatever you are focused on (document, screen, etc.) in a centred position.
3. Keep everything in Reach
In an effort to ensuring you’re not constantly slouching, you can start by pulling any essential equipment closer to your body. By bringing your mouse and keyboard in closer, your are limiting the amount of times where you are overreaching throughout the day.
4. Adjusting Your Chair
If you have a proper office chair, there are ly levers under your arm rests or the seat itself. It’s important to understand how to manipulate these levers in order to optimise your comfort.
First, push your hips back as far as they can go in the chair. You should adjust your chair so that your upper arms are in line with your torso.
In addition, the forearm should become perpendicular to the upper arm as well as in line with the table. Your hands should also be in line with the forearm.
You should also adjust the height of the chair so that knees are horizontal to the floor or they are slightly lower with respect to hips.
VIDEO: Dr. Chris Oswald Explaining Proper Office Ergonomics
5. Invest in Your Lower Back
Your office chair is something you are going to be sitting in for roughly 40 hours a week. Because you are sitting in it for a good majority of your life, an upgrade is something that can be well worth investing in. In fact, there are many ergonomic office chairs that will greatly reduce the discomfort you are feeling.
One of the best ways to avoid leaning in order to squint down at your laptop is to invest in a larger monitor. With a bigger monitor, you will have a better time seeing, and you won’t be tilting your head down to work on your laptop.
Additionally, when your screen is kept at eye level, they will become less tired throughout the course of the day. Investing in multiple monitors can even increase your work performance by as much as 30 percent.
Perhaps this is a good point to bring up to your boss at the next staff meeting.
6. Take Regular Breaks
There are many reasons you should be taking regular scheduled breaks throughout the day. When you’re sitting down for long periods of time, all your muscles and ligaments tense up. To release the tension try performing some of the following stretches after long sessions at your desk:
Download a complete guide of sitting occupation stretches approved by a renowned licensed chiropractor!
The Right Lower Back Pain Relief
One way many office employees are relieving their left and right lower back pain is by applying MuscleCare and its topical pain relief formula directly on the site of the pain in their lower back.
By proper stretching, taking breaks, using Musclecare’s advanced formula when needed, in addition to following some of the pointers outlined in this article, you will find the daily grind at work to be much less painful.
* Drugs may reduce the pain and can be used in cooperation with chiropractic care however, drug therapy alone will not provide the patient with an understanding of cause and the complex biomechanical issues that often exist. We strongly recommend an assessment and an explanation from a licensed chiropractor to help patients better understand their own genetic blueprint or injury.
Your Office Chair Is Hurting You
Photo courtesy of Dr. Turner Osler
Turner Osler was perfectly content working as a trauma surgeon at the University of Vermont — then he received a grant for researching biostatistics from the National Institutes of Health, which required him to regularly sit down at a desk for the first time in his career. That’s when his back pain started. “All the chairs I tried made my back worse, so I took a deep dive over the course of the year to figure out a better and affordable solution,” he says.
Now, Osler, who’s currently a research epidemiologist at the University of Vermont, channels his health research into a new mission: preventing what he calls “sitting disease.
” On top of creating and selling chairs that promote “active sitting” — which requires sitters to move while in the chair — Osler donates chairs to schools around the country, which he views as a practical way to improve public health.
I spoke with him about the impact of sitting disease, the problem with modern ergonomics (including standing desks), and how he plans to use his research and designs to improve public health.
Elemental: How does your work as an epidemiologist encourage you to educate people on the health implications of constantly sitting?
Turner Osler: What I’m most interested in is sitting disease, which is a constellation of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease that seems to come as a package. We’re in an epidemic of all these things. It’s ly the case that sitting still all day is mostly the source of these problems.
But that’s a hard case, because most people don’t care about a heart attack they might have 20 years from now. But what people do care about is the back pain they have right now.
Active sitting, which requires people to move when they’re sitting, solves both of these problems, reducing back pain and increasing metabolic rate. We’re kind of hijacking sitters’ neuromuscular systems and compelling them to be active, even when they sit.
What is it about sitting that’s so risky for our health?
People aren’t supposed to be sitting all day. This is a catastrophic misuse of our anatomy. We’re designed to be hunter-gatherers. Uniquely among our primate brethren, we have a requirement for exercise. We need to get in a lot of walking to make our biochemistry work properly. So when you force people to sit, a lot of things go wrong.
For one thing, it’s hard to move when you’re trapped in a standard 90–90–90 ergonomic posture, where your hips, knees, and ankles are at a 90-degree angle. In addition to immobility, there’s the back-pain issue.
Eighty percent of Americans have back pain that sends them looking for medical help at some point in their lives. This is a shocking figure to someone myself, who has taken the spine apart in the operating room and the anatomy lab. The human spine is fine on its own.
The fact that it goes wrong in 80% of us really makes no sense, unless you pull the camera back and see how we’re using our backs.
“Ergonomics doesn’t exist to make people more comfortable or improve posture. Ergonomists came into the world to make people more efficient on an assembly line. It’s an industrial concept.”
In cultures where people don’t sit on crappy office chairs, back pain is much less common. For example, in places Korea and Japan, where people squat or kneel or sit with other postures, there’s a much lower incidence of back pain. Viewed from this angle, it seems our whole back-pain epidemic is really a created problem.
What’s the biggest problem with most standard office chairs?
People who make so-called ergonomic chairs have realized that when you sit in a 90–90–90 configuration, you lose the back’s natural curve.
So they’ve tried to reconstitute it with lumbar support — by pushing on the small of the back to regain that curve. But pushing on the back doesn’t fix it.
What you need to do is lower your knees below your hips by adjusting the seat of the chair to be higher.
Your spine doesn’t need to be forced to succumb to a posture an ergonomist thought would be good. Your spine knows how to support itself if it isn’t given false input from a backrest and lumbar support.
All these things distract your spine from sitting in a balanced posture.
By putting people back in charge of their posture and allowing their muscles to support them, their muscles get better, and their core strength gets better.
Speaking of ergonomics, it seems sitting disease is more of a mindset problem than a chair problem. Do you think traditional ergonomics perpetuate “sitting disease”?
Ergonomics doesn’t exist to make people more comfortable or improve posture. Ergonomists came into the world to make people more efficient on an assembly line. It’s an industrial concept.
Now employers want to design people’s experience on an assembly line so they don’t get a repetitive stress injury and sue them. So ergonomics has come to have much more thoughtful implementation.
But at root, it was how to get more widgets off the assembly line, which isn’t a very elevated purpose if you’re trying to think about your employees.
I was shocked when I started going to ergonomic conferences and discovered that the state-of-the-art research was really pretty bad. When you look at the textbooks, people are sitting in postures that just don’t make any sense anatomically.
The whole ergonomic industry is ready for a reboot. Basically all ergonomic office chairs are the same. They spin, they have various amounts of chrome, and they have lumbar support.
But if lumbar support was the answer, why does everyone still have back pain?
What about trendy alternative options to crappy office chairs, yoga balls?
Yoga balls were actually invented in the neonatal intensive care unit in Denmark in the 1950s. They had preemies who had trouble with secretions, so they would rock them around on the balls to drain their lungs.
Over time, the balls got bigger, and the yoga crowd got the idea to use them for exercise.
And then a perfectly reasonable person could say, “If it does some good at the gym, why wouldn’t you sit on one and get some exercise all day long?”
But to sit well, you have to dial in the height of your chair. No one knows how tall a yoga ball is. You might be able to read the diameter on the package, but when you sit on it, that’s not how high it is! It depends on the leak rate, the pressure, and the temperature.
The University of Michigan recently banned employees from sitting on yoga balls due to “catastrophic failures.” Since yoga balls are made cheap plastic, it’s not a question of if the ball will pop, but when. People go straight to the ground.
And standing desks? Could those help?
Standing desks are also a complete failure. There was a paper out in 2018 that followed 7,300 people for 10 years, half of them in sitting occupations, half standing. Those standing had twice the rate of heart attacks.
When you’re upright and walking, your leg muscles are moving rhythmically, squeezing the veins and pumping blood back to your heart. When you stand still, the vessels just dilate in your legs and the blood just sits there.
You’re setting up the conditions for a heart attack. You can die that.
As a general surgeon, I’ve stripped miles of varicose veins people who stood in assembly lines in their careers. It’s an ugly operation, and it’s mostly gone. But with this fad for standing desks, I think we may be stripping varicose veins people again.
Do you have a big-picture plan for preventing sitting disease?
Schools are a uniquely important environment for what I call “spinal prophylaxis,” or preventing back pain. There are 25 million kids in schools sitting on crappy chairs, but there isn’t really money to replace them all in a reasonable time frame.
So we designed our way the problem and came up with the Button chair, a simple design we give away to schools as a digital file.
They just take a sheet of plywood and put it on a CNC router, which is a robotic chisel that cuts shapes you tell it to cut.
About 200 schools have downloaded our file, which cuts out chair pieces that snap together with a self-locking joint we invented. The tipping mechanism is a used tennis ball.
Schools can have as many active chairs for kids as they might want to make, which is significant because schools will be the last to have the resources they need for active sitting.
This is really important to me. As a surgeon, I could help one person at a time in the operating room, maybe 5,000 or 10,000 over the course of my career. But as an epidemiologist designing a chair I can stuff through the internet, I can touch millions of lives.
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Low Back Pain Coping Tips
The key to recovering from acute low back pain is to maintain the normal curve of the spine. Following the guidelines in this article for 10 to 20 days after you experience the pain may help decrease your recovery time.
The following advice will benefit a majority of people with back pain.
If any of the following guidelines causes an increase of pain or spreading of pain to the legs, do not continue the activity and seek the advice of a physician or physical therapist.
The key to recovering from acute low back pain (abrupt, intense pain that subsides after a relatively short period) is maintaining the normal curve of the spine (hollow or lordosis). Supporting the hollow of your back will help decrease your recovery time.
Follow these guidelines for 10 to 20 days after you experience acute low back pain:
- Sit as little as possible, and only for short periods of time (10 to 15 minutes).
- Sit with a back support (such as a rolled-up towel) at the curve of your back.
- Keep your hips and knees at a right angle. (Use a foot rest or stool if necessary.) Your legs should not be crossed and your feet should be flat on the floor.
Here's how to find a good sitting position when you're not using a back support or lumbar roll:
Correct sitting position without lumbar support.
Correct sitting position with lumbar support.
- Sit at the end of your chair and slouch completely.
- Draw yourself up and accentuate the curve of your back as far as possible. Hold for a few seconds.
- Release the position slightly (about 10 degrees). This is a good sitting posture.
- Sit in a high-back, firm chair with arm rests. Sitting in a soft couch or chair will tend to make you round your back and won't support the curve of your back.
- At work, adjust your chair height and work station so you can sit up close to your work and tilt it up at you. Rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
- When sitting in a chair that rolls and pivots, don't twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body.
- When standing up from a sitting position, move to the front of the seat of your chair. Stand up by straightening your legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist. Immediately stretch your back by doing 10 standing backbends.
- Use a back support (lumbar roll) at the curve of your back. Your knees should be at the same level or higher than your hips.
- Move the seat close to the steering wheel to support the curve of your back. The seat should be close enough to allow your knees to bend and your feet to reach the pedals.
- Stand with your head up, shoulders straight, chest forward, weight balanced evenly on both feet, and your hips tucked in.
- Avoid standing in the same position for a long time.
- If possible, adjust the height of the work table to a comfortable level.
- When standing, try to elevate one foot by resting it on a stool or box. After several minutes, switch your foot position.
- While working in the kitchen, open the cabinet under the sink and rest one foot on the inside of the cabinet. Change feet every five to 15 minutes.
Stooping, squatting, and kneeling
Decide which position to use. Kneel when you have to go down as far as a squat but need to stay that way for awhile. For each of these positions, face the object, keep your feet apart, tighten your stomach muscles, and lower yourself using your legs.
- Try to avoid lifting objects if at all possible.
- If you must lift objects, do not try to lift objects that are awkward or are heavier than 30 pounds.
- Before you lift a heavy object, make sure you have firm footing.
- To pick up an object that is lower than the level of your waist, keep your back straight and bend at your knees and hips. Do not bend forward at the waist with your knees straight.
- Stand with a wide stance close to the object you are trying to pick up and keep your feet firmly on the ground. Tighten your stomach muscles and lift the object using your leg muscles. Straighten your knees in a steady motion. Don't jerk the object up to your body.
- Stand completely upright without twisting. Always move your feet forward when lifting an object.
- If you are lifting an object from a table, slide it to the edge to the table so that you can hold it close to your body. Bend your knees so that you are close to the object. Use your legs to lift the object and come to a standing position.
- Avoid lifting heavy objects above waist level.
- Hold packages close to your body with your arms bent. Keep your stomach muscles tight. Take small steps and go slowly.
- To lower the object, place your feet as you did to lift, tighten stomach muscles, and bend your hips and knees.
- Use a foot stool or chair to bring yourself up to the level of what you are reaching.
- Get your body as close as possible to the object you need.
- Make sure you have a good idea of how heavy the object is you are going to lift.
- Use two hands to lift.
Sleeping and lying down
- Select a firm mattress and box spring set that does not sag. If necessary, place a board under your mattress. You can also place the mattress on the floor temporarily if necessary.
- If you've always slept on a soft surface, it might be more painful to change to a hard surface. Try to do what's most comfortable for you.
- Use a back support (lumbar support) at night to make you more comfortable. A rolled sheet or towel tied around your waist might be helpful.
- Try to sleep in a position that helps you maintain the curve in your back (such as on your back with a lumbar roll or on your side with your knees slightly bent). Do not sleep on your side with your knees drawn up to your chest.
- When standing up from a lying position, turn on your side, draw up both knees, and swing your legs on the side of the bed. Sit up by pushing yourself up with your hands. Avoid bending forward at your waist.
Other helpful tips
- Avoid activities that require bending forward at the waist or stooping.
- When coughing or sneezing, try to stand up and bend slightly backward to increase the curve in your spine.
- Sleep on your side with your knees bent. You can also put a pillow between your knees.
- Try not to sleep on your stomach.
If you sleep on your back, put pillows under your knees and a small pillow under the small of your back.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/22/2014.
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