Back pain from sitting

Treating pain is one thing, finding it’s cause is like solving a crime. There are clues, you need to spot them. There are suspects, you need to ask questions about them. Quite often, the causes of pain are so obvious, we miss them. One of the major ‘criminals’ over the last couple of decades has been, undoubtedly, seated posture. This silent villain creeps up on many over a period of weeks to years and can cause problems to muscles and joints alike. But there are some very simple tactics we can employ to prevent pain caused by seated posture and I have listed my top six below.

  1. “Hips knees, 90 degrees”. Where ever you are sat, this should be the golden rule. Set up the lower body and the upper body will benefit. So if your seat allows 90 degrees knee and hip flexion you are off to a good start.
  2. “Elevate the chest bone”. When we elevate the chest bone (sternum) in any any position it will have multiple benefits. It provides a lumbar curve (lordosis), it retracts the shoulder blades (scapular), allows the shoulder (gleno-humeral joint) to nestle nicely in place and aligns the back-bones (vertebrae) comfortably.
  3. “Aim for the horizon”. Whatever is in-front of you (PC monitors, screens, documents etc) they need to be level with the horizon, so as to prevent you looking down and slumping forward. I have an app on my phone that provides an accurate position of where the horizon is at any time and I can then set up a work-station ergonomically.
  4. “Have only one monitor/screen”. Many busy professionals have more than one monitor or screen and find themselves turning regularly to view each display. Try to have only one monitor so you don’t spend too long with your head or body rotated.
  5. “Stretch”. Regularly stretch the chest (pectoral) muscles by gripping your hands behind you at the level of your tail bone (sacro-iliac joint), pulling your shoulder blades together and your shoulders down. Hold for 30 seconds and perform every 30 minutes when seated.
  6. “Reduce sitting time at the PC”. Kind of an obvious one really but if you reduce/remove the causative factor you reduce the risk of pain. If you regularly spend 2-3 hours a day at the desk, try splitting it into 30-45 minute sessions and spreading them out over the day.

Interestingly, I am starting to see more and more patients with pain caused by use of mobile phones. These problems are often in the upper neck and shoulders and are caused by sitting and/or standing with the head dropped forward while using a mobile device.

Looks like we might have a new sinner in our midst!

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