The human body is not designed for prolonged sitting.
In a previous piece, I talked about how long hours at your desk and evenings on the sofa cause problems in the upper back/neck. Unfortunately, sitting is one of the leading causes of lower back pain too.
When patients come to see me with acute lower back pain, they frequently blame it on a twist while bending to pick something up.
However, the underlying cause is often that they’ve been sitting more than usual – that twist was just the straw which broke the camel’s back.
The longer we sit, the more we slouch. A normal healthy lumbar spine (lower back) should have a small inverse curve or arch, keeping us upright and stable.
When we slouch, this inverse curve reverses and becomes rounded in the opposite direction. Over time, this puts pressure from the discs (jelly-like shock absorbers between the bones of the spine) onto the nerve causing pain.
Here’s my simple three-step solution to combating lower back pain while sitting at work or in front of a television screen after a long day:
1. Buy yourself a McKenzie Super Lumbar Roll, a small support cushion designed to maintain the arch of your spine while sitting. They’re brilliant – I use one every day.
2. Get up out of your chair at least every hour and, when you do, place your hands in the small of your lower back, push your hips forwards and lean back as far as you can 2 or 3 times to reset the natural curve of your spine.
3. When you get home do these simple strengthening exercises:
Kneeling up on your hands and knees, engage your lower abdominals and raise and straighten your right leg while you raise your left arm in front. Hold for 10 seconds, then repeat the other way round. Complete 5 revolutions.
Lying face down, bring your elbows under your shoulders, keep your back straight and rise up onto your elbows and toes. Hold for 15 seconds; repeat 5 times (if this is too hard, try it with your knees down).