Your everyday habits can play a role in developing chronic back pain. Here are a few simple things to keep in mind each day to reduce back pain.
1. Support your spine at your desk.
Compared to standing, sitting places increased stress on your spine and spinal discs. So prolonged sitting with poor posture, such as slouching forward, may contribute to back pain.1 Here are a few tips to better support your lower back while you sit:
- Keep knees bent at about 90-degree angle with feet flat on the ground. If needed, adjust your seat height so that your hips are about the same height as or slightly higher than your knees, which reduces stress on your lumbar spine. You can also use a footrest if that helps.
- Use lumbar support. Your chair should support the natural curve of your lumbar spine. If your chair does not have good lumbar support, consider adding a rolled towel or other cushion between your lower back and the chair. Just remember to sit all the way back in your chair so the roll supports your spine, not just cushions it.
- Avoid slouching forward. Sit up straight with ears directly above the shoulders. When working on a computer, adjust the monitor height so that your eyes naturally see the top third of the screen when looking straight ahead.
- Consider alternative office set-ups. For example, using a standing desk for part of the day or sitting on a yoga ball (for short bouts, building up) may bring much-needed relief from your chronic back pain.
Even if you sit with perfect posture, your lower back still needs to move. So try to get up and move around every 30 minutes or so when possible.
2. Support your spine with back exercises and stretches.
Exercises and stretches that specifically target the back’s muscles may help reduce chronic back pain.2 By improving the back’s strength and endurance, the muscles can better support the spine; and by improving the back’s flexibility, the spine’s range of motion can be increased for better function. Ultimately, you want to increase your back’s tolerance to activities both static and dynamic and provide it with good blood flow for optimal tissue hydration and nutrition.
Various exercises and stretches are available to target the lower back and nearby muscles that can affect the lumbar spine’s strength and flexibility. Check with your physiatrist, physical therapist, or other health care professional for which exercises may be appropriate for you. In many cases, it may be helpful to learn how to do the exercises in the correct manner—and to what frequency and duration—under the guidance of a medical professional, and then you can continue to performing the exercises at home on a long-term basis.
3. Regularly engage in low-impact aerobic activity.
Aerobic exercise may also help minimize your chronic lower back pain.2 In addition to helping strengthen your back and provide your tissues with essential blood flow, aerobic exercise may offer the following benefits:
- Decrease stress on your lumbar spine (as exercise helps you to control your weight).
- Decrease pain levels thanks to the release of pain-fighting endorphins.
- Increase likelihood of maintaining day-to-day functionality.
There are numerous options for engaging in low-impact aerobic exercise, including riding an exercise bike, using an elliptical machine, and walking. If these options prove to be too hard on your lower back, you can give water therapy a try.
You can begin with as little as 5 minutes of low-impact aerobic exercise per day, and slowly build up to 30 to 45 minutes per day at least 4 to 5 times per week. Just remember to check with your doctor or other qualified medical professional before starting a new exercise program.
Adopting good posture and engaging in exercise may seem like small changes, but they provide needed support for your lower back. In turn, you may find substantial relief from your chronic lower back pain.