Back Pain from Sitting – Ergonomics vs Sit-to-Stand Workstations – Which is Better for Back Health?
If you are stuck having to sit long hours at work, you’re going to need to protect your back. You can only sit for so long before it can become a common and chronic source of stress for your body. Not only is your lower back affected but your hips are affected as well.
Whether it’s from sitting at work or from driving long distances, virtually all of us suffer from this painful condition.
Sitting allows you to relax almost all of the muscles of your body except for the ones that keep you from leaning over to the side and forward. The pressure on your lumbar discs is much too high in this position.
When you sit this way, the muscles that stabilize the lower back, hip and pelvic area lose any support. The spine therefore relaxes and forms an excessive curve unsupported by your surrounding primary muscles.
The entire weight of your upper body places unbalanced pressure on the spine and the discs. The muscles that are meant to support the lumbar area become overstretched and fatigued (potential for constant back spasms).
Your discs become unbalanced and risk bulging (risk of herniation or degeneration). The pelvis ‘unlocks’, and its tilt loses neutral position (potential for disc injury). All of this while at ‘rest’.
What Are the Symptoms of Work-Related Back Pain?
Most people have experienced back pain sometime in their lives. The causes of back pain are numerous; some are self-inflicted due to a lifetime of bad habits. Other back pain causes include accidents, muscle strains, and sports injuries. Although the causes may be different, most often they share the same symptoms.
Symptoms of back pain can include:
- Persistent aching or stiffness anywhere along your spine, from the base of the neck to the tail bone
- Sharp, localized pain in the neck, upper back, or lower back — especially after lifting heavy objects or engaging in other strenuous activity; (pain in the upper back can also be a sign of a heart attack or other life-threatening conditions.)
- Chronic ache in the middle or lower back, especially after sitting or standing for extended periods
- Back pain that radiates from the low back to the buttock, down the back of the thigh, and into the calf and toes
- Inability to stand straight without having pain or muscle spasms in the lower back
Work-Related Back Pain Relief
There are a myriad of ways to reduce and even cure your work-related back pain.
This is the most sustainable and long-lasting way to relieve long term work-related back pain. The intrinsic design of ergonomic chairs is that which removes the strain from the lower back by means of support – both in the lumbar region as well as other areas which require support to hold up that area sufficiently. Adjustable armrests, height-adjustable seating and mobility are some other important factors to consider when purchasing an ergonomic chair – the right fit is almost more important than the right chair! Read more about ergonomic office chair selection by clicking here.
- Pain relief medication
For short term relief – such as a muscle spasm – this solution is great. However, as a long term solution this will surely cause more harm than good.
- Short periods of stretching and exercise
This is a great way to work out any cramped up or overworked muscles, and give your body a much needed boost by means of increasing the blood flow. However, realistically speaking, not everyone has the luxury of getting up from their desk top walk around for two minutes every hour – especially with looming deadlines and the general pace of work in the 21st century. Where possible, incorporate this method into your daily routine.
- Improved posture
Simply straightening our backs to improve your posture may help alleviate lumbar pain – if it is an acute instance. However, with chronic conditions and spinal misalignment, improved posture may actually worsen the pain. Consult with a chiropractor before making any long-term adjustments to your regular posture.
- Sit-to-stand workstations
Some praise this type of seating setup, while others loathe it. This is definitely a black-or-white, case-by-case basis. Some people may enjoy the benefits typically associated with a standing workstation, while other may have it worsen their existing condition. Read more about the standing workstations benefits and disadvantages here.
In summary, the most practical and easily implemented improvement we can see with work-related back pain is by introducing ergonomics into your office. Put off by the price? Read this article about how little an ergonomic chair actually costs over 5 years here .
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Cover Image Credit: Blair Chiropractic