Why You Have Back Pain: The Dangers of Excessive Sitting

Why You Have Back Pain:  The Dangers of Excessive Sitting

There is a pandemic in today’s society. This pandemic affects 5.6 billion people, or around eighty percent of the world’s population, and it’s probably not what you think. No, I’m not referring to AIDS, West Nile virus, or H1N1. I’m referring to low back pain. Yes, low back pain. 

Low back pain costs the United States over $5 billion in health care costs and forces employees to lose 93 million work days annually. Why? People don’t know how to protect their backs.  Eighty-five percent of back problems are from misuse. The chair you are sitting on to read this text is likely hurting your back, and you don’t know it. In fact, sitting likely causes most people’s back pain. Let me explain:  there is a specific correlation between excessive sitting and disc herniations (also known as bulging discs) of the back. Repetitive sitting damages the back more than physically demanding tasks, and places your body at a greater risk for any low back disorder, not just a disc herniation. Your spine is composed of vertebrae i.e the bones, and discs in between each vertebra that act as a cushion. These discs can move out of place and can cause back pain—this is a disc herniation.

Did I make you never want sit again? I hope not. That’s not my goal. My goal is to provide you with a way to combat the negative effects of excessive sitting. So, what can you do about it? Be aware of your actions. Stand up and stretch every 20-30 minutes.

Specifically, stand up straight and reach your arms toward the ceiling. While standing, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. During the exhalation, stretch your hands higher toward the ceiling. Next, with your palms facing up, bring your arms down to the side of your body. Then, pretend you are holding a pencil between your shoulder blades and squeeze them together to prevent the pencil from falling. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. During this exhalation, hold the contraction of your shoulder blades together for 10 seconds. Relax. You have successfully completed the basic stretch break to combat the effects of prolonged sitting. This entire stretch break will not take more than 30 seconds, yet its benefit will last exponentially longer. Repeat this stretch every 20-30 minutes, or as needed. 

Dr. Zumstein is the author of Secrets to Preventing Back and Neck Pain:  60 Ways to Protect Your Spine and founder of The Back Safety & Wellness Consultants. You can find his book, information about his company, or sign up for his free newsletter at www.backsafetyandwellness.com.