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Back Pain From Sitting | Possible Reasons and Treatments

Feb 25, 2022

While being able to make a living by sitting behind a desk may sound like a dream come true for a lot of people in blue-collar jobs, not everything is sunshine and rainbows behind the desk, either.

The truth is that this kind of lifestyle comes with downsides of its own, and the most common one is back pain from sitting.

Let’s see what causes this problem, what factors that make it worse, and what are your options when it comes to prevention and treatment!

What Causes Back Pain from Sitting at Your Desk?

Why is it that something as simple and natural as sitting can cause chronic pain in some people? The truth is that there’s no simple answer to the question. The term “back” consists of the spine, various muscle groups, myriad nerve endings, and any pain in any of these regions would be classified as back pain.

Now, it’s important to stress that the most common source of lower back pain from sitting is caused by your posture. However, by also sitting for too long, the discs in your vertebrae might start losing their cushioning. As a result, there’s sharp, chronic back pain, especially when sitting.

One word that we used to describe sitting was “natural”, however, this is not necessarily the case. Sure, anthropologically, we’re expected to sit, seeing as how this is our usual semi-resting stance for millennials. From the anatomical standpoint, the human body is built to stand upright. This way, it has more support from your organism, and the weight of your upper body is more evenly distributed. By sitting down, you’re actually pushing your body out of alignment.  

Keep in mind that your back is not the only area in which you may experience pain. Neck pain from sitting is not uncommon either and these problems often come together.

Now, while upper back pain from sitting is not as common, poor posture behind the desk can be one of the reasons behind it. More common reasons are improper lifting, trauma, infection, or carrying a great load on your back (a heavy backpack, etc).

Most common causes

Some of the most common reasons why people experience back pain while sitting are:

  • Sciatica
  • Herniated disc
  • Muscle strain
  • Degenerative disc disease/ osteoarthritis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Poor posture
  • Not being in shape

It is important to start by determining the cause, seeing as how, based on the root of the problem, you might need to take a specific approach.

How Do You Recognize Back Pain from Sitting?

The real question is, how can you recognize that your back pain is caused by sitting and not some other cause. After all, you might experience some other common source, like back, neck, or even shoulder pain from sleeping on your side. So, in order to start getting the right diagnosis, you have to be honest with yourself. You can do this by answering the following questions.

  • Are you leading a sedentary lifestyle?
  • Is your chair ergonomic?
  • Are you slouching behind your desk?
  • Has the pain evolved gradually?

Answers to some of these questions may contain the key to your problem.

You see, it’s not just about sitting. If that was the case, almost everyone would have back pain problems. It’s sitting in an improper chair, sitting for too long, sitting in an unhealthy position, as well as ignoring these problems for far too long. Moreover, you might want to do a bit of research on the concept of proper sitting, in order to be able to recognize if you’re not doing something right.

While to some, this may seem like a perfect storm of coincidences, anyone doing a desk job can relate to just how likely it is for all of these factors to align. Worse yet, they probably know back pain from sitting at a desk first-hand.

Is This Treatable?

Well, there are several ways to fix and treat this issue, depending on the origins of the problem.

In some cases, the course of action is pretty straightforward. What you need to do is fix your sitting posture, invest in better furniture, lose some weight, and strengthen your back muscles through exercise. In order to cover it all, you might also want to strengthen your core muscles, as well. Lastly, there are always viable, surgical options available for spine-related injury. 

Generally speaking, these treatment approaches can be grouped into two categories.

Homemade remedies

One proactive approach to this problem lies in trying out some exercises for back pain. Some of the most popular ones are the plank and the arch. In general, exercises that you use in order to stretch this particular area. For instance, there are some exercises that show great results in a case of a herniated disc.

There are some additional solutions you might want to give a chance to. For instance, you could try applying ice, using a heating pad, using a support for the area in question, and even taking over-the-counter medication. Other people are considering massage or even trying Yoga.

Medical treatment approach

Arguably the best approach to this ailment is probably to approach a medical professional with experience in treating people who suffered from lower back pain from sitting. Physical therapy does wonders in this field and it can give you a reliable method of strengthening your back muscles in order to help them provide more support for your back.

Medication in terms of muscle relaxers was also known to work in some cases. Then, there are the nerve blockers and steroid injections, which are known to help with pain relief.

Of course, the last option is surgery. Surgery is an option for those who would like to take a more aggressive approach to find relief when other options have been depleted. The spine surgeons at the Orthopedic Institute of New Jersey are always available for a consultation to discuss surgical and non-surgical options. 

Key Takeaways

A sedentary lifestyle and desk job are common prerequisites to back pain from sitting. While there are a lot of things that you can do to treat this problem, prevention is always the best course of action. Being aware of the hazards of these lifestyles and career choices is the first step towards a pain-free future.

Those who are suffering from chronic or sudden back pain can find a back and spine specialist at the Orthopedic Institute of NJ.

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