In this age of technology and information, more and more people are spending more time sitting down. Although computer work stations are more ergonomically designed and consciousness about ergonomics is heightened, back pain remains as prevalent as ever.
First some statistics. In the working age group, one in two reports some sort of back trouble each year; 80 percent experience pain in the lower back sometimes in their lives. Liberty Mutual Group, the largest workers’ compensation provider in the United States, says that low back pain accounts for 33 percent of its total claim expenses.
Sitting puts up to 40 percent more pressure on the discs in the lower back than standing. That is because the pelvis rotates when you sit, flattening the spine’s natural curve. Slouching makes it even worse. Static posture, sitting still for prolonged periods, like in driving long distances, inflicts constant pressure or load on the discs of the lower back. Over times this kind of prolonged pressure, combined with poor circulation to the area as a result of static posture), can cause discs to weaken and deteriorate. A weakened disc is more likely to rupture even with the slightest bending or lifting. When that happens, the gel inside the disc seeps out and puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. This is a disc herniation.
Another aspect of back pain is related to the back muscles. Prolonged sitting ( static posture) also takes a toll on the back muscles. You may think your body is at rest while sitting, but the muscles in the back are still working to keep you upright. Yet because in sitting movement is limited the circulation slows down, with several harmful effects. Waste products called metabolites accumulate as a result of slowed circulation and cause muscle aches and pains in the back. Poor circulation also means that the muscles do not get the oxygen and other nutrients they need to help them do their job. Muscles start to get tired and weak. A weak muscle is more liable to stretch or tear with bending and/or lifting. This is called a strain of the back.
So what is the solution? Get up and move around. It is that simple. To reduce the load on your back, all you need to do is take minibreaks. Get up and move around. Get out of your car and move around. One or two minutes two times an hour. Practice “active sitting.” Cross your legs, uncross your legs. Recline. Twist. All these help. Use a chair with a lumbar support and an adjustable height. Active sitting is facilitated by adjusting the height of the chair every so often. Learn to fidget and be restless when sitting.