Approximately four in 10 American workers hold white-collar jobs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, meaning that 10s of millions of people sit in office chairs for hours each day. Since our bodies weren’t designed for this type of sedentary lifestyle, this leads to a variety of aches and pains and, in some cases, long term disability. Primary among these health problems is back pain, which now affects over 31 million Americans. Fortunately, basic health and lifestyle changes can alleviate back pain without invasive surgery.
Promote Perfect Posture
Spending eight hours per day in that office chair doesn’t do your back any favors. Furthermore, many of us hunch our shoulders or slouch in our chairs, contributing to stress on the spine. Good posture maintains the natural curvature of your back, keeping the spine properly aligned. When sitting, Mayo Clinic recommends finding a chair that allows you to keep your thighs parallel to the floor with both feet resting on the ground. Sit with your back flush against the back of the chair, keeping your shoulders relaxed and neck straight. If your chair doesn’t properly support your back, consider placing a small pillow or rolled towel at the curvature of your lower back.
Ditch The Office Chair
More workers are rethinking their office chairs and opting for non-traditional options. One choice is to swap your chair for a large exercise ball. This promotes core strength and strong posture. Another alternative is switching to a standing desk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, standing throughout the workday rather than sitting may reduce back pain. If your company doesn’t offer standing desks, commit to standing up for at least five to 10 minutes per hour to reduce strain on your back.
Switch Your Bag & Lighten Your Load
That large purse that you sling over your shoulder may be further contributing to your back pain. Shoulder bags, messenger-style bags, and purses shift the weight of your load to one side, leading to spinal misalignment. If possible, switch to a backpack-style back that evenly distributes weight between your shoulders. Reluctant to invest in a new bag? Instead, commit to lightening your daily load. For example, a heavy laptop may add six or more pounds to your bag’s weight. A lighter alternative, such as a Lenovo Ultrabook, weighs just three or four pounds. This reduction in weight may translate to significant improvements in your back pain.
Strengthen Your Abs
For many Americans, weak abdominal muscles cause the lower back muscles to take on a larger chunk of your daily load. Strengthening your core muscles may alleviate back pain. Consider the following two exercises:
- Plank: Begin by adopting a push-up position with your back held straight. Then, hold this plank position for 30 seconds. If it’s too challenging to hold this position, drop your knees to the floor, keeping your abs tight. Repeat three times per day, increasing the duration as the exercise becomes easier.
- Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent. In a fluid motion, raise your hips off the floor until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line. Be careful not to arch your back. Then, lower to the ground and repeat 10 times.