Back Pain from Office Chair: Why it Happens and What to Do About it?

heated chair pad

Lucas Lu |

heated chair pad
According to the American Chiropractic Association, "Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work. One-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year." Ironically, the workplace itself, especially sitting in an office chair all day, often causes back pain by exerting too much pressure on the back and spine.


Even though sitting for long periods can lead to bodily pain, there are easy ways to prevent and soothe it. If you're experiencing back pain from an office chair, or if you're concerned about sitting at a desk for many hours, this article will guide you through the causes of office chair back pain and provide solutions.

 

Why sitting on office chairs causes back pain?

Poor Ergonomics: Most office chairs tilt the pelvis backward, causing it to sag when sitting upright. The more the pelvis sags, the more pressure on the discs, leading to potential damage. Prolonged sitting in this position increases the risk of serious harm. Sitting in a reclined position is less damaging as it spreads the curvature throughout the spine.

Office Furniture: In addition to office chairs that do not provide good support for the lower back. Another back pain culprit is the position of the desk and/or computer monitor. If they are not at the right height, it can place your neck in an awkward position, impacting your back pain.

Limited Movement: Our bodies aren't built for prolonged desk sitting; when we remain stationary, our joints and tissues become discontent. According to the National Post, the average office worker sits for about 10 hours daily, exceeding what our bodies are designed for. Extended sitting worsens our posture. A healthy lumbar spine has a small curvature, maintaining stability and upright posture. Hunching over reverses this curvature, straining ligaments. For those predisposed to low back pain (e.g., due to arthritis or sciatica), prolonged desk sitting can exacerbate it. Additionally, being overweight can contribute to back pain.

Incorrect Posture: Remaining in one sitting position throughout the day can result in back pain. Prolonged sitting in an incorrect position, like slouching at a desk, crossing your legs, or hunching over, strains back muscles and leads to back pain. It's important to have sitting (and standing) alternatives that provide rest to different back muscles. Switch between a very relaxed sitting position and sitting up straight. And, of course, remember to take breaks to stretch, stand, and walk.

 

How to prevent and relieve back pain from office chair?

Although prolonged sitting in an office chair may result in back pain, there are proactive measures you can implement to both prevent and alleviate discomfort.

 

Tips to Prevent Back pain from office chair

Adjust the office chair
The ideal office chair should be ergonomic and adjustable, providing support for your back, arms, legs and hips. Make sure to adjust the arms of your chair so that your arms are slightly above your shoulders. This adjustment is critical to relieve pressure on the upper spine and shoulders and prevent forward leaning. If your chair lacks lumbar support, consider using a lumbar support pillow. It's important to choose a pillow that is the right size to provide support for your lower back without making you hunch (if too small) or arch (if too large).


Adjust the height of your desk and computer
Ensure your computer screen is positioned correctly to prevent strain on your neck and back. Whether sitting or standing at your desk, the computer should be at the right height. When looking straight ahead, your eyes should align with the center of the screen.

If your monitor isn't adjustable, consider using tools like a laptop stand to modify its height. Keeping a distance of 20 to 40 inches from your monitor helps prevent eyestrain and awkward postures. Another option is a standing computer stand, allowing you to maintain the natural curvature of your spine when standing.


Practice Correct Posture
While there isn't a one-size-fits-all sitting position for alleviating low back pain, some positions are more favorable than others. When seated at your desk, ensure your feet are flat on the floor, and support your lumbar curve (lower back) with a chair or cushion.

Maintain proper posture by keeping your shoulders back and your head in a neutral position. Avoid crossing your legs; instead, bend your knees at a right angle, level with or slightly above your hips.  If you have items like a wallet or cell phone in your pocket, remove them to reduce extra pressure on your hips and lower back.

 

Stay Active
Despite maintaining proper posture, prolonged periods of sitting can negatively impact your health, potentially resulting in back problems and muscle strains. To mitigate this, incorporate short, active breaks throughout the day to prevent keeping your back in a fixed position for too long. Stand up, stretch, and walk for at least a minute or two every half hour. Even brief stretches or minimal activities like walking to the water fountain or bathroom can contribute to maintaining your well-being.

 

Solutions to relieve back pain from office chair

heated chair pad

Apply heat
Warm, moist heat can help relieve back pain, either at work, or once you’re home. A heated chair pad targeting the back and hips can help alleviate office-related back pain by relaxing muscles, increasing blood flow for faster recovery, and providing pain relief. Its warmth promotes comfort and relaxation, which is especially beneficial for those experiencing stiffness and tension from prolonged sitting. Stash a heating pad near your desk and use it a few times throughout the day.



Stretching frequently
Incorporating regular stretching exercises into your routine can effectively alleviate tension in the back muscles. Engaging in gentle yoga or specific stretches targeting the back proves particularly beneficial. Strengthening these muscles not only enhances posture but also contributes to pain relief. Make sure to include exercises for your chest, neck, core, and torso, along with regular hamstring stretches. Dedicate 5-10 minutes each day to stretching, fostering both relief from and prevention of back pain.


Massage or Physical Therapy
Exploring professional massage or physical therapy proves beneficial for targeting specific pain points and receiving personalized relief exercises. Massage, in particular, is known to reduce muscle pain, induce muscle relaxation, and contribute to overall health improvement. Among various massage types, deep tissue massage stands out for offering excellent short-term relief from acute back pain. Its effectiveness lies in breaking up muscle knots, enhancing circulation, and increasing mobility.

However, if you are experiencing severe or dramatic back pain, it is advisable to consult with a doctor. They can provide a proper diagnosis, recommend appropriate treatment, and prescribe pain relief medication as needed.


Schedule some stress relief
Implementing healthy choices during non-working hours is key to alleviating low back pain associated with sitting. These choices not only aid in preventing back pain from becoming chronic but also contribute to overall well-being. Integrate
stress-relieving activities into your daily routine, such as taking a walk during lunch, engaging in a half-hour of cardio before or after work, or enjoying your favorite playlist or podcast while working. These lifestyle choices can positively impact both your back health and overall quality of life.


Conclusion

In conclusion, while it is important to adopt ergonomic practices and stretch and exercise regularly during work hours, the significance of making healthy choices outside of the office environment should not be overlooked. Striking this balance requires incorporating stress-relieving activities such as walking, aerobics, or distracting recreational activities into your daily routine. By cultivating physical and mental wellness in and outside of the workplace, individuals can create a harmonious balance that promotes a healthier, more comfortable, and more fulfilling life.