Most people fail to recognize how rudimentary activities such as sitting play a significant role in your back pain and how simple stretches can not only relieve the symptoms of back pain, but actually prevent them from occurring. Sitting for long periods of time can one of the major reasons why people experience upper and lower back pain daily. When you sit in one position for a long period of time, your hamstrings and hip flexors will start to tighten as well as your chest muscles. The tightness in these muscles can happen as quickly as 15 minutes.
When the hamstrings and hip flexors tighten, they pull on the pelvis creating stress into the lower back. Once the pecs start to tighten, they pull the shoulder blades forward, causing stress on the neck. Once those muscles tighten up, your posture begins to become worse and the pain begins to increase. The surface that you are sitting on can make the problem even worse if it is not supportive of your neck and back.
As a matter of fact, while I was sitting in the waiting room on jury duty the other day, I started experiencing some of this discomfort after sitting in jury duty today. After sitting here for 45 minutes and waiting for instructions, I started to notice how my leg muscles were feeling tight and my neck was starting to bother me. At the onset of this uncomfortable feeling, I got up, walked around a little bit and then started stretching both my lower body and my upper body. Immediately I started feeling some relief in both my upper and lower body.
One of the things that stands out most to me, other than people not wanting to be here, is their posture. When we arrived this morning at 8, most people were sitting up tall, eagerly awaiting whether or not they were going to be called in. Now that it is in the middle of the afternoon, people are slouching, rubbing their necks and squirming in their seats. People’s sitting and standing postures are getting worse the longer we are in here. I am noticing a lot of people who look uncomfortable and are hurting. I have been able to stretch and walk around every 1/2 hour throughout the whole time I have been here. I have been stretching my legs, pecs, biceps and neck. I honestly believe this is what has helped me be able to make it throughout the day without having upper or lower back pain.
The three steps to help you avoid back pain when you have to sit for long periods of time are getting up and walking around, stretching your upper body and stretching your lower body. Getting up and walking around whether to the bathroom or to get some water, it helps to get some blood flow through your body. This simple amount of movement will help you when it comes time to stretch because the muscles will be less tense.
The second and third steps are stretching. Stretching the upper and lower body are equally important because they both are affected when you sit for long periods of time. Stretching the upper body consists of your pecs, biceps, shoulders and neck muscles. Stretching the lower body consists of stretching the hamstrings, quads, calves, gluts and hip flexors. All stretches should be light to medium in intensity and held for at least 40 seconds.
As you can see, the effects of sitting as related to lower back pain can be easily counteracted by applying simple stretching techniques in almost any environment. I hope this gives those of you who sit a lot during the day some food for thought as well as a simple application for stretching while sitting in your chair. I hope this gives those of you who sit a lot during the day some food for thought about stretching in your chair and how you can avoid suffering from upper and/or lower back pain.