My kids have heard me say for years that sitting is evil! It is one of the quickest ways for me to a head that aches and throbs and a low back that is stiff and sore. Sometimes, sitting for even a few hours is enough to trigger a low back ache. I think most of us know that sitting for long periods of time is not good for us and can take a heavy toll on the body.
Yet, this is exactly what many of us do at work and at home. We sit for hours on end, hunched over computers, books, and paperwork, collapsed into the couch, or slouching our way through endless meetings. And we wonder why our back and neck hurt, wishing it didn’t have to be that way in order for things to get done.
Preventing headache and back pain while at work isn’t difficult if you take a few simple steps to care for and move your body several times throughout the day. Here are some of my favorite ways to make sure I finish the work day with a back and head that feel good.
#1 Get out of your chair frequently and move.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it is surprising how fast the time can pass when I am engrossed in a project or a drive, and suddenly I have been sitting for hours and can hardly move when I want to get up. My feet and ankles are stiff and it takes a moment for my back, neck, and spine, to un-hunch.
Don’t do that.
I get that it might seem inconvenient and an interruption, but your back and body need to move every 45 - 60 minutes. Even if it is just to stand, stretch tall, twist, bend and touch your toes, and then sit back down, make sure you get up out of your chair at least once an hour.
Set a timer if you need to. Take a walk down the hall, to the mailbox, down the stairs, to the printer, around the building. Something. Anything. Stand, kneel, bend. Do something other than just sit there all day, stiffening up and starting to ache.
#2 Always have your “best friend” with you!
Around here, we believe a 4” inflatable ball should be your best friend. It is portable, adaptable, and will support you where you need. Every time. It is especially essential for those who have a desk job or do a lot of travel. Take your ball with you and sit with it under butt or behind your back. Move it every 10-25 minutes, or as you remember, up and down your spine, off to one side or the other, or under your hips and gluteal areas. There is a lot of technical jargon I could use to tell you how this will help your back, but the general idea is that your spine and pelvis will be less likely to solidify into place while you sit. Trust me, your body will thank you.
Compress the sacrum and improve alignment
Ease tightness in the mid and upper back
Offset the pelvis and improve joint mobility
Support the lumbar curve
And you don’t have to stick with just these suggestions. Anywhere that is tight, hard, or tender can be a good place to put the ball. Allow your body to unclench, soften, and “melt” over the ball as you sit.
#3 Wake up and activate the muscles that “turn off” with all the sitting.
For most of us, this means the hamstrings and glutes. If you can, keep a 5lb+ weight under your desk. (We keep a 25 lb and 35 lb kettlebell at the office.) One of those times when you get up out of your chair, take 2 minutes to do a few deadlifts. Feel the back of your legs and hips engage as you slowly move through a deadlift, hinging at the hips and then standing back tall. It’s not so much about the weight and strengthening as it is about the movement and engaging muscles that have been inactive for a bit. Maybe even throw in a few deep squats, again, feeling how the hips, glutes, hamstrings, and quads engage. Move slowly and deliberately into and out of the squat.
#4 Optimize your desk and chair to fit you!
Adjust height as needed so you can
Don't Do this...
If you can’t lower your chair so your feet are flat on the floor, lift your feet by putting a small stool or lift underneath them. On most benches, I need a few books or something under my feet in order to stay for long. Get creative in making sure your body is supported in a good posture while working. Lift your computer monitor up so it is more at eye level, allowing you to look straight forward rather than down. This will help you sit taller.
Try a few of these things. Try them all. Feel the difference in your body as you deliberately care for your body throughout the day.
We see a lot of back pain in the clinic. Making simple changes like this to your habits and behaviors might be all you need. But if it isn’t, and you need more help to reclaim a body that moves well and feels good, we’d love to talk.