Back pain can be debilitating. Besides limiting the range of your motion and mobility, it can adversely impact your career and personal relationships. It’s very hard to focus on anything else when your back hurts.
Today, you’ll learn how to sit with lower back pain and adapt your activities to avoid unnecessary aggravation.
We’ll cover the following:
- How to prevent lower back pain.
- Techniques to ease pain whilst working.
- How to manage chronic back pain.
- What back pain is not.
This article is for you if you’ve neglected your posture and mobility.
(Related: Best Office Chairs For Back Pain).
What Back Pain Is (Probably) Not.
I have suffered from back pain throughout my adult life. As a 2-metre tall guy who has competed in powerlifting, I have all the “right” risk factors.
- One of the best pieces of advice I received was from Austin Baraki, a doctor who runs the excellent Barbell Medicine blog.
- He pointed out that a lot of lower back sufferers a caught in an endless loop of misinformation, believing that something in their back is “broken”.
- This mechanical view of back pain is most often incorrect.
Rather than butchering Austin’s argument, I’ll link to his article here. I hope it helps you as much as it helped me.
Office chairs with forward seat tilt, like the Herman Miller Aeron and the Sidiz T50, can be a good option for back pain sufferers, as they rotate your hips forward to help you find an optimal sitting position.
Why Do You Have Lower Back Pain?
Many factors can worsen lower back pain, but the primary causes are connected to posture, exercise some surprising environmental factors.
The #1 Cause Of Lower Back Pain.
Recent studies show a rise in pandemic posture:
- You work for long periods at home and have unconsciously neglected your posture.
- You did not have the resources to set up an ergonomic workspace to support health and well-being.
- You may not have been able to afford adequate equipment and resources to maintain good posture.
If your posture has been an ongoing issue for you, after this article, we recommend that you:
- Consult a physiotherapist, chiropractor, or personal trainer to correct your issues.
- Discover our comprehensive guide on proper sitting posture here.
There are online guides to correct your range of motion, which will significantly improve your daily life. We recommend Kinstretch with Beard – a monthly mobility membership.
Consider The Weather.
Did you know that the weather can affect your joint mobility? Cold weather and a change in barometric pressure can cause our joints to seize up. Joints like the knees, knuckles, and wrists tend to take the main impact.
There is something to be said about our lack of movement in the cooler months, too. You should aim for the following:
- 30 minutes of exercise three times per week.
- Gentle strolling each day – during your lunch break or after dinner.
- 5-10 minutes of gentle stretching, when waking and before bed.
Consistency is key. Focus less on perfection and more on showing up to support your entire body every day.
Be Wary Of Over-Working Out.
Working out too intensely for too many days or undertaking complex weightlifting with incorrect form is a recipe for disaster.
Not only that, but even outside of a gym, the below actions can cause injury:
- Moving house and carrying boxes.
- Moving large furniture.
- Bending and kneeling in awkward ways.
If you notice painful spasms after a particular exercise, you must treat this like an injury. Remember RICE to optimise blood flow and swelling:
- Rest: Do this initially to protect the injury from additional strain.
- Ice: You can ice your injuries for 20 minutes three times a day.
- Compression: This is for the first 48-72 hours to prevent further swelling. You may find manual compression may temporarily alleviate pain in more chronic conditions.
- Elevation: Using pillows, elevate your injury where possible to improve blood flow.
For less severe aches and pains, opt for CBD oil, magnesium oil, magnesium bath salts or Voltaren gel to reduce inflammation.
Address An Underlying Condition.
Be sure to consult your doctor if you have symptoms that last longer than one week and do not resolve with the above methods.
A doctor will be able to confirm if there are any underlying conditions, like diseases or viruses, that can cause severe lower back pain.
Ways To Sit With Lower Back Pain.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely dealing with lower back pain and are looking for pain relief.
The below should reduce pressure on your joints, alleviate pain, and ensure your seated work is more comfortable.
Know The Correct Angles.
Correct posture will relieve back pain and prevent it in the future. This goes beyond your spine and addresses your total body alignment.
Our tips for correct posture are:
- Alignment: Focus on keeping your back straight, core locked in, knees bent, legs parallel, and feet flat on the floor.
- A neutral neck: Ensure the monitor or computer screen is positioned at eye level.
- A reclined angle: Recline slightly in your office chair to help reduce spinal pressure and neck pain. You can do this for a short period every hour (set a reminder!).
- Relaxed shoulders: Know the difference between a relaxed position and slouching – focus on rolling the shoulders back and pulling the shoulder blades together.
- No wrist pad: Avoid using a wrist pad while typing to support your wrists better.
- Correct seat height: Most people are comfortable sitting 40 to 50 centimetres above the floor. The user’s feet can rest comfortably on the floor, while their thighs and arms can be at a right angle to the desk’s surface.
If you imagine a vertical string connecting your hips, spine, neck, and head, you’ll be perfectly aligned when this is pulled tight.
Use Your Wingspan.
Ensuring your desk space is set up to support you is crucial. We suggest:
- Convenience: Keep all items within arm’s length when your back is in pain. This will prevent you from over-stretching or worsening injuries.
- Comfort: You can opt for a chair with wheels to quickly manoeuvre closer to items you need.
Motion is lotion. The more you move, the better you support your joint and muscle health. A lack of action can worsen some injuries.
Support The Back.
Not all office chairs are created equally. You should opt for an ergonomic chair. Ergonomic principles can significantly improve your working life.
When buying your chair, look for the following:
- Lumbar support, or add a cushion to slightly arch the back.
- Adjustable backrest angle, armrests, seat height and tilt tension (as a minimum).
To improve seated posture, start a timer and sit up straight. When you notice you’re slouching, restart the timer. The goal is to strengthen your back and intercostal muscles.
Take Advantage Of Chair Armrests.
Armrests aren’t just decorative pieces of a chair. They:
- Alleviate tension in your shoulders.
- Are a tool to assist you in and out of the chair.
- Prevent slouching.
Be sure to utilise your armrests, especially when moving from a seated to a standing position.
- Scoot to the end of your seat first.
- Ensure your feet are flat on the floor.
- Use the armrests to push yourself up.
(Related: Are Ergonomic Office Chairs Worth It?).
Adapt Your Activities.
Daily activities can be challenging when experiencing lower back pain. We suggest:
- Daily stretches: Try ‘downward dog’, ‘seated pigeon’, and overheard stretches. Yoga by Adrienne is a great resource – check out the video below this list.
- Contouring cushion: This is the easiest way to ensure you are safe and comfortable whilst driving or seated elsewhere. Discover them here.
- Cold and Heat Therapy: Consider ice baths and infrared saunas for pain management and injury recovery. Utilised by athletes worldwide, these methods are highly effective.
Diet And Exercise.
You must adopt a healthy balanced diet to prevent inflammation and support muscle recovery, especially during stress. Reducing refined sugar, salt, and alcohol can significantly decrease your inflammation.
You should ensure your diet is abundant in the following:
- High-quality omega-3 sources like wild-caught salmon.
- Seeds – poppy, sesame, chia.
- Beans and lentils.
- Dark leafy greens – broccoli, spinach, and kale.
- Edamame and tofu.
- Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, and berries.
- Calcium-fortified plant milk or dairy products.
You should focus on high-quality sources of vitamin D and calcium for bone health, plus high-quality fish oil and magnesium to support muscles. We recommend these Australian-made ones.
The average adult requires 1,000 mg of calcium daily. You should only take vitamins to supplement an inadequate diet. Whole food sources are always best.
Bottom Line On Sitting With The Right Posture To Avoid Back Pain.
Protecting your back from future backaches by adopting the correct sitting position is essential. Removing the factors causing pain is also necessary.
With the right office chair, an awareness of your body, physical discipline and pain management, you can begin to sit effortlessly.
When in doubt, engage a specialist for advice that suits your body composition and working situation.
Utilising the tips above and consistently checking in with yourself will ensure you are mobile and pain-free for years to come.