3 MIN READ
Simple Ways to Relieve Low Back Pain
March 24, 2021 by By Nita Keesler
Aches and stiffness are not always a matter of “aging.” They can be brought on by daily habits, posture, and repetitive movement. Holding any position for extended periods is not a natural state for our bodies. We are designed to move in a variety of ways.
Whether at a computer, in a car, on a bus or plane, dining, watching television, during other leisure activities, or in waiting rooms, many find themselves sitting most of the day.
Prolonged sitting, especially with improper posture, creates a cumulative detrimental effect on our low back:
- Tension or strain in muscles and connective tissue and compression on intervertebral discs.
- Increased pain, fatigue, and potentially greater injury than physical activities.
To help alleviate and prevent back pain when in a seated position, be sure to sit on your “Sits bones.” Our Sits bones (ischium) are strong and sturdy. They’re designed to hold up the weight of our upper body. Avoid rounding/slumping onto your tailbone/sacrum area. It is common, especially when tired or distracted, to curve our spine while we sit.
If your spine is curved forward, first take a deep breath. Shift to bring the flesh of your glutes toward the back of your seat/tilting pelvis forward slightly. Your shoulders will naturally align. This will take some practice to begin to feel like a normal, natural, and energy efficient posture. Soon you’ll feel more energy and less strain in your body.
Next, be sure your hips and knees are at 90-degree angles, and your feet flat on floor. If your legs are shorter you can use a block or other platform under your feet at your desk. Be sure not to lean only to one side.
Some additional suggestions:
- Check the quality of your chair and car seat. Purchase a new office chair if needed. Many options are available to ensure proper back support. Further, a variety of car-seat back supports can be used to achieve proper alignment.
- Alternate between a seated desk and standing desk if possible.
- Line up your PC monitor and keyboard to prevent torque, or twisting your spine. If you use a laptop, I recommend using it as a monitor. Raise it to a comfortable height for your neck. A wireless keyboard and mouse will help assist with proper body alignment.
- Reverse the process – self-awareness is key. Notice your frequent postures and stretch in the opposite Generally, for prolonged sitting, stretch the chest, belly, and hamstrings twice as long as the back and quads. Even though we feel the pain in the back, all too often the back is being over-stretched by improper posture and prolonged sitting. (When in doubt, a professional posture assessment will give you the guidance for your individual needs).
- Set a timer every 30-60 minutes and stretch/walk around for 1-2 minutes. By doing this, at the end of a typical workday you will have stretched 10-20 minutes.
- Additionally, at home or at the gym, stretch for a minimum of 10 minutes every day. When possible aim for 20 or 30 minutes along with gentle strengthening exercises. Stretch with the family, during a walk or while watching television. Some stretches can even be done in the grocery line without drawing attention to yourself! (For example, chest stretches.)
- Do the seated “cat-cow” pose in your chair. With hands on knees, breathe in and bring your chest forward. Breathe out and round your spine. Repeat 5-10 times.
- Do slow range-of-motion Range-of-motion (ROM) exercises are wonderful to warm up muscles. They energize, help with joint mobility and relieve muscle tension. Make circles with your hips, legs, torso, and arms (if shoulder issues are present, lead with your bent elbow or shrug into small circles).
- Hydrate your body. Prevent some muscle tension/soreness by consuming adequate water. Use this equation as a guide: Drink about half of your body weight in ounces. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs., drink about 75 oz. of water.
- 5 deep belly breaths: Filling your belly like a balloon for a count of 5, hold 1-2 seconds, and release for a count of 5. You can add a deep shrug with your shoulders for extra tension release!
Hold these stretches 10-30 seconds:
- Low back, seated: Lean your hands, then your forearms, over your knees. If this is comfortable, fold forward to touch your toes.
- Hips, seated: Put one ankle over the opposite knee. Fold your body forward as above. If this is uncomfortable or not accessible, cross your ankles and lean forward, or use a block or box in front of your legs and rest “crossed” foot on the block, then lean forward.
- Stand up and stretch your belly by placing your hands on your hips and pressing your hips forward.
- Backward lunge to stretch a tight psoas/hip flexor.
- Chest: Press your hands together to contract the chest muscles, then place hands on hips or clasp your hands comfortably behind your back.
- Side stretch: With your feet hip-width apart, slide your right hand down your right leg while bringing your left hand overhead towards the right side. Repeat for other side. You can also do this seated.
By investing a few moments each day to subtle shifts in our habits, we’ll reduce the chance of injury, increase our productivity, and have greater energy for the leisure activities we most enjoy.
Nia Keesler, LMT is with Back In Balance – Massage & Wellness, www.Back-In-Balance.MassageTherapy.com.