I work a full-time job in communications in addition to my new ventures, personal training and blogging. The first week I started in January 2011, the transition to sitting for 6-8 hours per day was rough. Within the first couple of days, although I was consciously trying to keep my posture while sitting at my desk, the lower back pain started to creep in.
So here comes Tip #1: Engage your core more!
I remembered back to when my sister worked at the gym when we were living in Kansas. She always used to sit on an exercise ball when she was at her desk. That night I grabbed my ball from home and brought it to work to try out. I was fearful that people would think I was weirdo (which they still may), but I decided it was a necessary change. A strong core has been shown to help counteract lower back pain. Sitting on an exercise ball as opposed to a regular desk chair encourages you to become more conscious and aware of your posture throughout the day. Since and exercise ball does not have a back to lean on your core works over time while sitting on it. Who wouldn't want that, eh?
I haven't had back pain since and I'm so grateful that my sis opened my eyes to this concept. Not to mention... the bug is spreading! There are now 3 of us in my building that traded in their traditional desk chairs for exercise balls. So cool! Meet my friends/co-workers Sarah and Josh, and then there's me! :)
To give you an idea of sizing, I have a 75cm ball and I'm 5' 8" with pretty long legs. Josh and Sarah's are a bit smaller at 65cm. It's important to make sure that you're still sitting high enough at your desk for your arms to be comfortable as well.
If you're not feeling the exercise ball for your work environment, try your best to sit on the edge of your chair at work to ensure good posture and an active core. Also, strengthen your core outside of work to fight off that creeping pain.
Tip #2: Stretch those hammys!
Something that is super easy to fix that can account for your lower back pain is tight hamstrings.When I decided to write this post and started researching a bit more, I realized that there is VERY little information on this. Everything I read says that tight hamstrings can no doubt lead to pain in the lower back; however, none of them do a good job explaining exactly why that is. I've already decided that I will be doing another more in-depth post on this down the road, but for now I'll tell you what I've learned and what has worked for me.
I know from my studies (according to ACE) that flexibility in your hamstrings (which consist of 3 muscles, Beceps Femoris, Semitendinosis and Semimembranousous) along with flexible hip flexors, can attribute to less stress on the lumbar spine, or lower back. I also know that from my own experience and from advising friends and my new client, that stretching the hamstrings and hips frequently can significantly reduced lower back pain.
Remember: protect your lower back when stretching your hamstrings. Don't round through your lumbar spine and bend the knees as much as needed when stretching the hamstrings while standing. Don't focus on touching the ground if you can't. Just feel the stretch, it's not a competition, (save that competitiveness for your workouts). It shouldn't be painful in the lower back while stretching your hamstrings, either. I was taught the proper way to stretch in my Yoga practice, so naturally, I feel that integrating Yoga into your routine can benefit anyone and everyone. The pictures below are from Yogacrazy.com. I think they're a good illustration on the right and wrong way to stretch your hamstrings while standing (yoga term: Forward Fold). Always practice safe stretching!
**Disclaimer: If you have severe back pain please consult your physician.
Hopefully these tips will help if you're suffering from minor lower back pain, or even if you're not. Let me know if you try either of them out. I'd love to hear your experiences.
On a side note, I have my first YogaFit certification (level 1) this weekend. I'm super excited to learn more about Yoga!
Hope everyone has a great Thursday!
Be Strong. Be Healthy. Be Balanced.