Industrialization, modernization, digitalization — all have been boons for American life, allowing us to sit back and reap the benefits. But this shift toward a more sedentary, and seated, lifestyle may be wreaking havoc on our bodies, especially our backs.
At Premier Spine Institute, under the experienced guidance of orthopaedic spine surgeon Dr. Bonaventure Ngu, our team specializes in chronic back pain, and we’re seeing the results of excessive sitting coming through our doors on a daily basis. From chronic low back pain to tech neck, our patients in The Woodlands, Baytown, and Humble, Texas, are quickly learning that life at a desk may not be doing their spines any favors.
While we’ve already answered the question posed in the title — yes, excessive sitting likely exacerbates chronic back pain — find out why, and more importantly, what we can do about it.
By the numbers
To say that back pain is prevalent would be an understatement — 80% of Americans will experience low back pain at some point in their lives, and it’s one of the main culprits behind missed work days. Of this 80%, 20% go on to develop chronic low back pain, which is pain that lasts 12 weeks or longer. And these numbers only apply to the low back, never mind the middle of the back and the neck.
Now let’s add a few more numbers into the mix:
- 25% of the adult population in the United States sits for at least eight hours each day
- Two in three Americans are considered overweight
- One in three Americans is considered obese
- Americans spend more than 11 hours a day in front of a screen
When we mix all of these numbers together, we may find the perfect recipe for musculoskeletal problems, especially along your spine.
Move it or lose it
Your body is an incredibly efficient machine that relies on balance and stimulation, and most of your biomechanical processes need external stimuli to ramp up and get working. For example, your bone is living tissue that requires direct stimulation in order for it to continue to rebuild and repair itself. When your body senses that an area is inactive, it ceases to send in the necessary resources for regeneration, leading to weakened bone and bone loss.
As well, your connective tissue is designed to stretch and move and, like an unused rubber band, can deteriorate if left idle.
Your back contains both bone and connective tissue that need the right amount of stimulation and movement to keep the necessary restorative and anti-inflammatory resources flowing in.
A matter of pressure
One of the most common causes of chronic back pain is a problem with your intervertebral discs. From degenerative disc disease to a ruptured or herniated disc, your discs can become compressed, which can lead to fairly significant pain.
When you’re seated, your spine is compressed, placing added pressure on your already beleaguered discs.
Sit up, stand up
We know that life spent in a chair may not be your first choice and that there’s often little you can do to avoid it. There are, however, many things you can do to offset the effects of excessive sitting on your chronic back pain.
For example, get up and stretch throughout the day. By taking just two minutes every hour to touch your toes, swing your arms, and perform a few hip circles, you can keep your spine active and loose.
For the time you do spend in your chair, be mindful of your posture. Slouching is a spine cruncher that forces it into a position it’s not designed to sustain. Be sure to sit up straight in your chair, with your head up (you can raise your computer screen), and your feet flat on the floor. You can also use a special lumbar pillow for better effect.
Lastly, make your time out of the chair count. If you’re suffering from chronic back pain, there’s much we can do on our end to help with your immediate discomfort, but the steps you take on your own can also improve your situation. And we mean steps — a little exercise goes a long way toward strengthening your back, even just a 30-minute walk each day.
If you’re suffering from chronic back pain and you’re concerned about sitting, please give us a call so we can guide you moving forward. Or you can use the online scheduling tool to set up an appointment.