Back Pain

It’s truly unfortunate that something as commonplace as sitting can cause so much back pain — but it’s shockingly easy to sit in a way that exacerbates and even causes lower back pain. That’s because many of us spend our day-to-day lives in cubicles, leaning forward to peer at computer screens, and sitting all day instead of getting the exercise we need to keep our core muscles strong.

Lower back pain from sitting can be caused by problems ranging from degenerative disc disease to lack of muscle tone. In many cases, you may need to see a doctor and get physical therapy to manage your back pain. However, there’s a lot you can do to treat and prevent lower back pain at home, especially if your lower back pain is the result of core muscle weakness. 

Why Your Lower Back Hurts When You Sit Too Long

Why exactly does your lower back hurt so much when you sit too long? The mechanics of sitting, especially in modern chairs, put a lot of pressure on your spinal discs, muscles, and joints. If you sit with poor posture — hunched forward with a rounded spine, slumped to one side, slouching, or leaning too far back, you can end up putting even more pressure on your spine and, if you sit like that all the time, you’ll eventually weaken the core muscles that support your spine, leaving you even more prone to back pain and injury. There’s a reason your mother kept nagging you to sit up straight when you were a kid.

Other Causes of Lower Back Pain

Poor posture and lack of core muscle strength are common causes of the back pain that four out of five people will experience at some point in their lives. However, lower back pain can also be the result of an injury to your lower back or even a disease of the spine. 

Degenerative disc disease, in which one or more of the discs between the lumbar vertebrae becomes damaged and can’t heal itself, is a common cause of lower back pain in older people, for example. It can cause pain that radiates down the buttocks and thighs. Sciatica, which occurs due to an irritation of the sciatic nerve, can cause burning pain to radiate down one leg. A herniated disc, in which a disc becomes deformed, can also cause pain and numbness in the lower back. Other causes of lower back pain include muscle strain or spinal stenosis, a condition that causes the narrowing of the spinal canal in the vertebrae.

Managing and Preventing Lower Back Pain

You don’t always need to seek medical care to treat occasional lower back pain due to sitting. Muscle soreness and stiffness can be treated with simple stretching exercises. Something as simple as a standing forward bend can open up your lower back and relieve much of the stiffness and soreness in your lumbar spine, especially if you repeat the stretch several times.

However, you shouldn’t focus merely on stretching your sore lower back. You need to build up core muscle strength so that the muscles around your spine can properly support the vertebrae. Strengthening your back muscles will improve your posture to prevent lower back pain due to sitting, and it can also provide some protection against back pain due to injury. Try yoga exercises like plank pose, bird dog pose, bridge pose, and boat pose to strengthen your core muscles. Prevent back pain from sitting by using good posture when you sit. You can use a lumbar pillow to support your lower back and encourage proper spinal alignment — just place it at the base of your spine, above your hips, and make sure your buttocks are pressed firmly against the back of your chair.

When to See a Doctor About Your Lower Back Pain

Doing core-strengthening and -stretching exercises regularly and using proper posture when you sit at the office can clear up most cases of lower back pain. However, you should see a doctor if:

  • Your back pain is severe or isn’t going away
  • You have tingling or numbness in your legs or back
  • You feel unusually weak
  • You have a fever
  • You’re losing weight for no reason
  • You have lost control of your bladder or bowels

Medical treatment for lower back pain usually involves physical therapy, which uses exercises to strengthen the weak muscles in your lower back. Medications, including nerve blockers, steroid injections, antidepressants, muscle relaxers, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be prescribed. Surgery for back problems is usually done only as a last resort.

Most lower back pain from sitting is caused by poor posture, and can be treated with exercises and over-the-counter pain relievers. Make strengthening your core back muscles a priority now, so you can avoid even more back pain as you grow older.

 

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