Besides a sore bum, here’s what’s at risk.
Increasing numbers of jobs take place at an office, so it’s no surprise that the vast majority of Americans spend their day glued to a desk chair. “Many Americans spend 80 percent or more of their day sitting,” says Kaliq Chang, MD, pain specialist.
You might have heard of “sitting disease” by now, the official term for health conditions caused or perpetuated by a sedentary lifestyle. Too much sitting has been shown to increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Here are more health risks of sitting too much.
But that’s not all: Long periods of sitting can also “contribute to or worsen back pain, especially if you have poor posture or a chair with bad supports,” says Dr. Chang.
Although the best thing you can do is take frequent breaks from your chair, there are also ways to fix your posture to reduce pain:
Use good posture when sitting. You should be able to draw a straight line down your body—from a centered head, down the spine, through the hips, and to the ankles, says Dr. Chang. Avoid crossing your legs. Research shows that repeated slouching adds up over time and can make your spine more fragile and prone to injury or pain, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Pick a supportive chair. It might be worth it to pay a little extra for something with proper lumbar support. If budget is an issue, you can hack it: “You can roll up a towel or place a pillow behind your lower back to increase your lumbar support,” suggests Dr. Chang.
Level out your lower joints. Your hips and knees should be level and at an equal height. This provides a sturdy foundation, so your back and neck muscles don’t have to work quite as hard to stay tall and straight. If you have short legs or a tall chair, you can “elevate your feet with a stool or stack of books to relieve some of the pressure on your spine,” says Dr. Chang.
Evaluate your ergonomics. Your desk setup plays a big role in your posture. Something as simple as the tilt of your computer monitor may be enough to have you slouching and squinting from 9 to 5. A good desk setup helps your neck remain in a neutral position. Here are tips for desk setup to help your posture.
Adjust your seat height. Any chair worth its salt can be raised or lowered, so tweak it until it’s high enough that your shoulders don’t hunch up or strain. They should feel neutral and level as you type.
Stand up. If you’re lucky enough to have a standing desk, these can be a great way to take a break from your seat. But keep this in mind: “Standing all day can be just as detrimental as sitting all day because of the inactivity itself,” says Dr. Chang. In other words, it’s a good idea to take active breaks—whether you’re standing or sitting. Try a walking meeting, take the stairs, and do stretches at your desk. For more tips, here are 8 habits for a healthier day at the office.
If you’ve made all these changes and you’re still having back pain, here are other common causes of back pain you may be experiencing.
Dr. Chang is a highly specialized interventional pain management specialist in private practice in New Jersey.
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Many Americans spend 80% or
more of their day sitting and
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this can contribute to or worsen back pain
especially if you have poor posture or
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have a chair with bad support.
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Good posture means you can draw a straight
line from your ears to your shoulders,
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hips and knees and ankles,
and your head is center.
00:00:24,906 --> 00:00:29,245
A proper chair for prolonged siting
would be one with proper lumbar support.
00:00:29,245 --> 00:00:30,787
You can roll up a towel, or
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place a pillow behind your lower back
to increase your lumbar support.
00:00:35,006 --> 00:00:38,645
Also your hips, knees, and
shoulders should be of equal height.
00:00:38,645 --> 00:00:40,185
Elevate your feet with a stool or
00:00:40,185 --> 00:00:42,988
stack of books to relieve some
of the pressure on your spine
00:00:42,988 --> 00:00:43,833
00:00:43,833 --> 00:00:48,559
Proper monitor height would be if
the neck is in a neutral position and
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there is no need for stooping or
bringing the head down to see the monitor.
00:00:53,622 --> 00:00:56,422
A proper seat height with
the keyboard would be so
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that the shoulders can rest naturally
while the hands are typing.
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Standing desks have become a popular
way to interchange their position
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between sitting and standing.
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However, standing all day can be just
as detrimental as sitting all day,
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because of the inactivity itself.
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Even with good posture and
proper ergonomics, when sitting or
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standing at work, it's still
important to take frequent breaks.
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Get up, walk around.
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And this will help increase the blood flow
and nutrients getting into your spine.
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Getting it straight. Bethesda, MD: NIH News in Health, National Institutes of Health, 2017. (Accessed on November 7, 2018 at https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2017/08/getting-it-straight.)
Low back pain fact sheet. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2018. (Accessed on November 7, 2018 at https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Low-Back-Pain-Fact-Sheet.)
Patient education: low back pain in adults (beyond the basics). Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2018. (Accessed on November 7, 2018 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/low-back-pain-in-adults-beyond-the-basics.)
Sitting disease: how a sedentary lifestyle affects heart health. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins Medicine. (Accessed on November 7, 2018 at https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/healthy_heart/move_more/sitting-disease--how-a-sedentary-lifestyle-affects-heart-health.)Standing or walking versus sitting on the job in 2016. Washington, DC: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2017. (Accessed on November 7, 2018 at https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2017/standing-or-walking-versus-sitting-on-the-job-in-2016.htm.)