Here at PhysioCore, back pain is one of the most common complaints of our patients and it is typically the result of poor posture while sitting. If you sit in a slouched position, you are putting undue pressure on your intervertebral discs. These are the fibrocartilage that act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae in your spinal column. Over time, the discs degenerate or gets damaged, causing back problems.
Poor posture while sitting may be aggravated by an underlying medical condition. Let’s take a look at the other possible causes of back pain and what you can do about it…
Causes of Low Back Pain When Sitting
Herniated Disc – also known as slipped disc, this occurs when a portion of the soft disc nucleus is pushed out of the surrounding outer ring (annulus fibrosus) into the spinal canal as the disc degenerates from age or injury. The protruding section then puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, causing pain.
Aside from being an effect of the natural aging process, disc herniation can occur as a result of a fall, repetitive motion injury, or using your back muscles instead of your thigh and leg muscles to lift heavy objects.
Spinal Stenosis – this refers to the narrowing of the spaces in your spine, which can put pressure on the nerves that travel through it. Spinal stenosis occurs most often in the neck and lower back. It is also most commonly seen in people 50 years and older. Spinal stenosis can be caused by arthritis, an injury, a tumor, or an infection.
Sciatica – this refers to the radiating pain along the course of the sciatic nerve, which originates from the lower section of the spine through your hips, buttocks, and down each thigh and leg. Sciatica often occurs when a bone spur, herniated disc, or spinal stenosis compresses a part of the nerve. Sitting for extended periods can worsen the pain, but it’s usually unilateral, meaning you’ll only experience it on one side of the body.
Muscle Strain – this occurs when your muscle is overstretched or torn. It typically happens due to overuse, fatigue or improper use of a muscle. Strains can occur in any muscle, but they are most commonly seen in the neck, shoulder, lower back, and hamstring.
A muscle strain in the lower back is also known as a lumbar strain. You may have pain that extends to your buttocks, but not all the way down to your legs. A strain will also stiffen your back and make it hard to move. Most of our patients at PhysioCore recover within a month, although it can also become a chronic problem if it’s caused by poor sitting posture and you don’t take immediate action to correct it.
Causes of Upper Back Pain When Sitting
A lot of people suffer from pain in their neck and upper back because of hunching forward while sitting. The pain is also often the result of poor posture, traumatic injury, or muscle overuse. Treatment may include home remedies or seeing a physiotherapist. Other common causes of upper back pain include the following:
- Improper lifting
- Problematic kyphosis
- Herniated disc
- Myofascial pain
- Spinal infection (i.e. spinal epidural abscess or a paraspinal abscess.
How to Get Rid of Back Pain Yourself
There are different ways to soothe your aching back, which can help minimize the intake of medications and provide additional benefits to your ongoing medical treatment. Check out these pain-relieving techniques and find out which one works best for you:
Aside from improving your posture when sitting, you can try these home remedies for relieving back pain:
- Apply ice. Cold causes vasoconstriction, thus helping reduce inflammation that can be causing the pain. Leave the ice pack on for 10 minutes. Any longer than this can result in tissue damage by frostbite or lack of blood flow. You can apply ice every hour or so, depending on the severity of the pain and inflammation.
- Use a heating pad. Once the inflammation is under control, you can already apply heat for a soothing relief. It also facilitates healing by increasing blood flow to your back.
- Use a support. Place a rolled-up towel or a lumbar pillow at the base of your spine while sitting to provide stability and to help you sit up straight.
- Exercise in the water. This is especially safe for a sore back as the buoyancy of water supports your weight and offers gentle resistance. This can make you feel more comfortable while building your strength, increasing flexibility, and reducing pain associated with chronic back problems.
- Get a massage. Multiple studies have proven the effectiveness of massage therapy for back pain. Different types of massage can help loosen and relax tight muscles in your upper and lower back.
- Try yoga. This is an excellent way to improve focus, release endorphins (feel-good hormones), and decrease stress. Through yoga, you can control the way your mind perceives pain.
- Take over-the-counter medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the go-to medication for back pain relief. They help reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation in muscles and around intervertebral discs or arthritic joints.
Stretches and Exercises
You can try different exercises meant to tone and strengthen your lower back.
- Back Flexion Stretch. Lie on your back then pull both knees to your chest while flexing your head. Continue this simultaneous motion until you feel a comfortable stretch across your mid and low back.
- The Arch. Lie on your back with your arms by your sides. Slowly lift your hips using the muscles of your back, buttocks, and abdomen. Hold the position for five seconds and then relax.
- Knee to Chest Stretch. Lie on your back with your knees flexed and both heels resting on the floor. Place both hands behind one knee and pull it toward your chest, stretching the muscles in your buttock.
- The plank. Position yourself in such a way like you’re about to do a push-up. Keep your elbows in line with your shoulders then push up onto your forearms and toes while keeping your back straight and your elbows on the ground. Hold the position for 20 seconds.
- The Bird Dog. Kneel with knees hip-width apart and your hands firmly planted on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Raise your right arm and left leg while keeping your shoulders and hips parallel to the floor. Hold for five seconds, and then rest. Alternate with your left arm and right leg.
When to See a Physiotherapist or Go to a Sports Injury Clinic
There are instances when back pain resolves on its own, while in other cases, exercise and observing proper posture help in easing the pain. However, you need to seek medical attention in the following scenarios:
- When the pain is persistent and does not seem to be getting better
- When you experience weakness, numbness or tingling in your back or legs
- When you lose bladder or bowel function
- When you have a fever and feel unusually week
- When you have nighttime pain and start losing weight
These signs and symptoms can signal a serious condition that must be addressed immediately. It is also important to determine what pain is common and what pain is abnormal for you. When your aches and pains worsen, it’s time to see a specialist.
We can help!
Back pain that is associated with sitting, particularly for extended periods, is a common problem. It is likely to worsen with age, but there are certain things that you can do to protect and strengthen your back.
Being conscious of maintaining a proper sitting position and keeping your core muscles toned will help keep your back in the best possible shape. After all, back pain should not stop you from living the good life and doing the activities that you love.
If you experience any of the scenarios mentioned in the preceding section, contact us at PhysioCore. Our multidisciplinary team can diagnose, treat, and help you get back to your feet in no time.