Can I Injure My Back While Sitting?

A woman sits with good posture while working at her desk.
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For those with back pain, it can be easy to blame discomfort on physically demanding activities, like pushing harder than usual on a run or lifting a heavy box while helping a friend move. The reality is that you may be most at risk for back pain and injury when you’re at your stillest — while sitting.

The good news is that back pain and injury from sitting is completely preventable. By adopting good posture techniques, you can decrease your risk of injury, alleviate your discomfort and promote whole-body health.

How Sitting Can Harm Your Spine

Contrary to popular belief, sitting puts more pressure on your back than standing. Slouching, hunching or other poor posture practices can strain the discs and vertebrae of your spine, increasing the tension there.

The effects of poor posture may not be felt after sitting for a few hours. But days, weeks, months and years of less-than-ideal posture can stress the spine significantly. Over time, it even alters the anatomical structure of the spine and causes problems with the discs, joints and muscles.

Proper Posture for Preventing Back Pain

It can be easy to hunch or slouch without thinking. No one can maintain perfect posture at all times, but taking mindful measures to improve your posture can make all the difference when it comes to the strength and longevity of your spine.

People tend to sit the most at work. Making a few fundamental changes in the way you position your head, back and elbows while on the job can alleviate current discomfort or help prevent you from developing pain down the road.

Stop Looking Down

Because the human head weighs 10 pounds, tilting it forward to look down at your computer, phone or desk can place a significant strain on the muscles of your neck and upper back. To help alleviate this extra pressure, try to keep your gaze straight ahead whenever possible, and your monitor no more than 2 inches above or below your natural line of sight. Here are three easy tips to keep in mind for better spine health:

1. Avoid Leaning Forward

Place significant pressure on your lower spine and distribute weight more evenly by touching your buttocks to the back of the chair, with shoulders back and a straight spine.

2. Keep Your Elbows Close to Your Body

Reaching forward to type may not feel like it puts significant pressure on your spine, but it can strain your shoulders and back over time. The farther away your elbows are from your torso, the more strain is put on your back. To prevent this, rest your elbows your chair or desk and keep them bent at a 90-degree angle.

3. Don’t Sit for Too Long

Sitting in the same position for hours at a time can wear out muscles in the back and neck. Adjust your seated position every 30 minutes and take a 10-minute break for every hour of sitting. Go for a walk, refill your water bottle or take a few moments to stretch.

Professional Care for Whole-Person Health

Proper posture can be hard to perfect alone. A spinal specialist can help you practice habits to promote your spinal health, now and for years to come.

Whether you’re currently experiencing neck and back pain or looking for ways to prevent it in the future, experts at AdventHealth are available to help.

Take the first step toward whole-person healing Learn more about spine care at AdventHealth to get started.

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