Sitting and Low Back Pain:
How many hours a day do you sit in your car, at a desk, on the couch, etc…? Do you have any idea? Personally, I don’t even know for myself. But, one thing I do know is that I sit way, way more than I was meant to… And that always leads to bad things, especially if you don’t do something about it.
First of all, the human body was never meant to sit in a chair. We spent hundreds of thousands of years sitting on rocks or the ground. We squatted or stood. We definitely did not sit in chairs. Chairs were invented to help us appear more civilized than other creatures. And that part works!
But, is that good for us? Now, hold on, I’m not saying we should burn all the chairs. It’s just never going to happen. But, by becoming aware of the damage they cause in the long term, we can at least mitigate some of that damage and even reverse it.
First of all, sitting in a chair forces the vertebrae and nerves in the low back to get squeezed together. Over time, that can definitely cause low back pain. But, it’s more than that. Sitting for prolonged periods of time also makes the hips tight, which throws your posture and alignment out of whack. And that also causes low back pain for the same general reason.
So, the main thing to remember is not the damage that sitting causes, because we can’t avoid it. But, what we can do is try and fight or even reverse that damage. So, find a way to stand up every 30 minutes. Stand up, move around and stretch if possible. Even if it is for 5 minutes, it will help the body move some blood around and open up those tight spaces caused by all that sitting.
Then, find a way to incorporate some hip stretches at some point in the day. And do a little core strengthening. All that sitting makes the hips tight and the core weak. You want to try and reverse that stuff in a gentle but effective way as much as possible. If you’re on a long plane flight, force yourself to get up and go to the bathroom every half hour. Or, stand in the back of the plane and do some stretches. No one will care and you’ll feel great afterward.
Obviously, if you have time, you really need to do prehab (preventative) exercises and stretches that are more involved (check out the S.M.S. Low Back System for more), because 5 minutes of stretching here and there won’t undo years of damage. But, it will definitely go a long way to helping your body get unstuck from some of the seated patterns it has gotten used to over the years. And also, standing up and stretching really helps relieve stress and clear your mind. Just try and see how much better you feel.
With a little practice you can create some very healthy and simple habits that will help your body stay more fluid throughout the day, instead of just sitting in a chair and letting low back pain become the norm. I hope this helps!