Back pain and sitting
Do you find yourself confined to a desk for hours every day? Have you started to experience back and neck pains? But you do not exercise more than once a week?
Most likely that’s the cause right there! Excessive sitting and lack of exercise!
It does not take a genius to figure that out, but it does take a bit of reading and knowledge to know that exercise is important in reducing back pain and does not actually make the back pain worse.
I have been a rehabber in London and Malaysia, where I have come across many clients with the same case; sits down 6+ hours a day, has back pain for the past 6-12 months, has one of those fancy back supports at work or in their car and yet stills experience pains or discomfort in their backs. What seems to be the most successful treatment for them is exercise and education on better posture
Many factors play a role for the common back pain, one is posture and another is adaptive shortening. These are the main 2 I will talk about.
Most people at some point in their lives have told by someone (most likely our mothers) that we should sit up, back straight, shoulder back and chin up and it would be good for our posture and we won’t have a hunch back, thus preventing back pain. Well to a degree that is true. For most moderate active individuals this seems to help. But if you don’t exercise regularly, you would find that no matter how long you hold your posture, you would still experience pain or that you find that it is too tiring to hold that position so you just give up and sit back into the chair. This where people buy those fancy back supports for their office chairs or car, but no matter what high tech back support brace you buy, it is only a short term relief! This is the equivalent to only allowing a toddler to only ride a bicycle with training wheels their whole life, without allowing them to learn from them how to balance a bicycle. This is the same thing in principle, these back supports are meant to encourage you to be in that posture. So you need to be actively conscious about the position of your body.
So what I suggest would be, 15 mins every hour, replicate the shape of the back supports and maintain that position for that duration, once completed sit back into the support and after 45 mins, sit back up and hold that posture. Repeat that cycle again daily until eventually you are able to hold the position longer and eventually hold it unconsciously, this is the end goal.
As humans we are highly adaptable. If it gets hot? We sweat. If we get a cut, our body creates a scab to promote healing and prevent infection. This is the same with our muscles, if we sit down for too long or maintain a poor posture for too long our muscles can changes its functional resting length as well as its strength. This usually causes muscles imbalances in our body. For example with excessive sitting it can cause a shorter/tighter hip flexor and weaker glutes as well as lengthened hamstrings. This affects our posture, as the muscles required to support the spine, are not balanced out. This is why it is important to incorporate a variety of movements in our day in order to avoid such adaptations occurring.
So what can be done?
Find alternatives to sitting down.
There are many alternatives to the conventional desk chair, such as using a Swiss ball as a chair, utilizing a standing desk or even simply taking regular breaks from sitting down.
Another solution is exercise
Exercise is medicine, not just for our outer physical state, but for our internal and mental state.
If time is a big barrier to exercise, impulse training is fantastic for you, as it only requires only 20 minutes of your time. Also many studies on EMS training have shown positive results in reducing back pain.
Three quick home exercises for back pain that can be done in less than 5 minutes.
Hip flexor stretch.
There are many methods to stretch the hip flexors (front part of our thighs), One simple hip flexor stretch would be the kneeling hip flexor stretch. You would need to have one leg on the floor, so the top of your back foot is placed on the floor, and another leg bent at 90 degrees. You would slowing need to shift your weight forward, maintaining an upright posture. Do this for 30 seconds each leg daily.
The plank is an excellent core exercise. Remember the core is not just your abdominals; it includes your back muscles as well as the hip muscles.
To do the plank, get into the push up positions; however your forearms should be placed on the ground and your elbows directly below your shoulders. Lift up your torso, squeeze your glutes and maintain a straight back and neck. You would want to aim to hold this position for 1 minute each time. If 1 minute seems to be too difficult, you can break into sections of 20 seconds.
This would be the exercise I would suggest the most. It’s so important for many reasons and not just for your back pain. I previously mentioned how the gluteus muscle groups actually become “weaker” when you sit down too much; the Glute Bridge is an excellent exercise to help strengthen the gluteus muscle groups. Lay on the floor with your feet together and feet just under the knees. Arms can be positioned to the side of the body or away from the body. After lift your hips high enough until your shoulder, hip and knees form a straight line. You can hold this position for 30 seconds and do three sets, with a 10 sec rest in-between. Or you can do 3 sets of 20 repetitions.
written by Abdul, Impulse Studio