woman with back pain at desk

Most people know that a sedentary lifestyle can cause a significant number of health problems, from obesity to increased risk of heart disease and many more. But did you know that sitting for extended periods of time can also lead to chronic back pain? For many, back pain can be a difficult problem to treat; however, by implementing a few simple lifestyle changes, the discomfort of back pain can be eased if not avoided altogether. 

According to StartStanding.org, a passionate organization dedicated to helping people become aware of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle, the most common cause of back pain is postural stress. In other words, your body’s position when it is still can have a big impact on your back. How you hold yourself upright, how your body’s positioned during sleep, and even how you position other parts of your body such as your feet and arms can affect your back muscles and lead to tension and nerve stress.

Body Position/Posture Awareness

But how do you avoid sitting for prolonged periods, especially if your work consists mostly of sitting? And even if you manage to decrease sedentary time, how do you know if your body is in a healthy position when you are seated? StartStanding.org offers a wealth of information and resources to help people make these lifestyle changes. For starters, they recommend being aware of your body’s position throughout the day.

“Over our lifetime sub-conscious habits form and make it easy for us to not notice when we’re putting additional stresses on our bodies,” StartStanding says. There are six main posture habits that are quite common but should be avoided, according to StartStanding. These include looking down at our phones, computer screens, etc. and placing our elbows too far away from our torsos. See the full list and read more on what they have to say about adjusting our sitting posture here.

Although making simple adjustments to our sitting positions can help tremendously, sometimes back pain and discomfort persists. StartStanding suggests trying a new physical activity, seeking professional care and trying new ergonomic products to help. Yoga, physical therapy, massage and buying a standing desk are just a few of their suggestions. Of course the key is to avoid sitting for too long to begin with.

When Sitting is Unavoidable

Even if you work in an environment where you must be seated throughout most of the day, there are little ways to break up the monotony and give your body a break from sitting. A few suggestions would be to give yourself frequent standing breaks (StartStanding recommends every 30 minutes), take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible, don’t take the closest parking space, and do exercises at your desk (aka “deskercise”) to switch up your body position.

Remember, recent studies have shown that, although exercise is good for you and offers many benefits, it likely does not negate the damage done by extended periods of sitting. Therefore, the best way to avoid chronic back pain and other serious health problems caused by sitting, is to simply stand up!