Sitting for long periods of time can cause back pain. This is most noticeable during and after getting up from a chair or couch. Sometimes the pain is so bad that you stand with your back bent for a while and walking becomes very difficult. After a few steps you will slowly recover, but sometimes the pain lasts longer. An incorrect sitting position can cause or worsen back problems.
Causes of back problems
Many people sooner or later experience back pain. This is often the lower back, but the middle or upper back can also be painful. There can be many different causes for this. For example, damage or wear to the intervertebral disc can be a major culprit. But muscles or tendons can also be the cause of back problems. Sometimes back pain is a symptom of another complaint. The pain then radiates to the back. A common example is a bladder infection that can cause back pain. One of the most common causes is incorrect posture while sitting. This can worsen existing back problems and cause new back problems to arise.
Body not built for sitting
That’s a fact: our bodies are not built to sit still for long periods of time. By nature, humans walk many kilometers a day to look for food, hunt, fight or flee. But nowadays we don’t need all this anymore. The refrigerator is within reach and we prefer to travel by car or public transport, while sitting. We also spend many hours behind the PC, again sitting. And in the evening we plop down on the couch to watch television. Secretly, we sit on our butts for far too many hours every day. And that is exactly what our bodies are not made for.
Incorrect sitting position causes back problems
We sit too still in a hunched position. Take a critical look at yourself: what is your sitting position at the moment? Is it with a rounded back, shoulders drooping? Are your legs neatly parked in front of you? Are you sitting in a slumped position on the couch? Is your neck bent? These are all incorrect postures that can cause you quite a bit of back pain. Many people suffer from a tired back or a painful back after sitting. In some people these complaints only develop after a few hours, in others after a few minutes. This depends on the presence or absence of previous back problems and the duration of the incorrect posture. Someone who moves all day long and sits still for ten minutes a day will have little to no back problems due to an incorrect sitting position.
The back should not be rounded
Take a closer look at your own attitude. With a normal posture, the center of the back is slightly concave. This is a normal phenomenon: the spine tapers slightly inwards. These are the 5 lumbar vertebrae that have to bear the greatest weight. The lower back should therefore be slightly concave, the upper back convex and the neck should be slightly concave. Our current working postures are quite wrong: the neck is bent and rounded, but the lower back is also rounded because we lean forward a bit. This position makes the back muscles inactive and increasingly weak. In addition, too much pressure can be placed on the back of the intervertebral discs, making them painful. A rounded back not only makes the back weak, but will ultimately also cause a lot of serious back problems. A hollow back, something that many people find less attractive, is a good posture that strengthens the back.
Sit straight with your back hollow
This is half the work done: sit straight with a slightly hollow back. Unfortunately, many people cannot maintain this position while sitting. Soon the back collapses again. Push the buttocks well back into the chair so that the lower back is supported. The upper back does not need to be supported, this will only make the back muscles weaker. Let the back carry itself. Hanging or leaning only makes the muscles lazy and therefore weaker. Weak back muscles are asking for back problems. Occasionally pull your back extra hollow and back again. Do this especially just before getting up. This also prevents excessive pressure on the back of the intervertebral discs.
Exercise, even while sitting and driving
How can you move while sitting? Don’t your hands move because you write something or click your mouse? Many people do not realize how still they are sitting. The legs stand passively in front of the body and do nothing at all. And that while the legs are supposed to move. Wiggle the legs, turn the feet, give the legs the movement they ask for. Be aware of the fact that there are still legs on the body.
Back problems often arise while driving. Not illogical, because it is more difficult to get some exercise in the car. The backrest of the car seat is often also soft and incorrectly positioned, meaning that it adds little value. An extra cushion in the lower back provides more support. Special lumbar cushions are available for purchase for this. Try changing your position while driving by fixing your back slightly differently. And stop regularly for a break where you can walk a bit and work your back muscles.
Get up and walk
There’s nothing better than getting up and going for a walk. A call? Do this while walking. Need coffee? Get up and get this yourself. Stretching your legs every fifteen minutes and letting your back do its work would be ideal for people with a sedentary job. It should even become mandatory: a ‘walking break’. More than 25% of employees sometimes stay at home due to back problems. A shame, because these can often be prevented.
Strengthen back muscles
The back muscles could use some strengthening. Lie flat on the floor, on your stomach. Stretch your arms and legs like a superman and lift them off the ground. Feel the stretch on the back muscles. Lower again and repeat this exercise. A wonderful back strengthening exercise.
Sit on your hands and knees. Make the back alternately concave and convex, like a cat’s back. Repeat these exercises several times. Both exercises can be performed daily, approximately 10 to 15 repetitions each time. Other exercises that strengthen the back muscles are sometimes more difficult to perform or involve weights, which can cause back injuries more quickly. These should only be performed under guidance or advice, especially if there are already back problems.