As a nation of office-sitters, almost 80% of Americans struggle day to day with lower back pain. Bad posture, hyper-mobility and being overweight can all add additional pressure or strain to the lower back muscles and cause pain.
Back pain is the most common cause of taking sick leave from work. Medication can be helpful, but some medications carry risks such as side effects and possible addictions, making some health care professionals reluctant to prescribe them. Of course, the best thing for back pain is to address the root cause – there’s no point in popping pills when fixing your posture or getting the right chair for back support will sort you for a pain-free future!
Please do consult a doctor or physician for long-term back pain or in case of loss of movement.
So here are some of our top recommendations for stretches, therapies and lifestyle changes that will help to eliminate back pain!
1. Cat Stretches with a Chair
This gentle yoga stretch is easy to do and carried very low risk for your spine. It’s a good place to start building lower back strength too.
Place a soft pillow on top of a chair or stool. Rest your abdomen on the pillow, so that you are on all-fours with the chair in the middle.
Start by relaxing your whole body so that your back curves gently over the seat of the chair. Your head should be down, gently relaxing your neck. Stay in this stretch for 10-30 seconds. This is the ‘curl’ stretch.
As an optional extra, you can also reverse this stretch. Slowly bring your head up and gently arch your back to contract the muscles across your lower back. This is the ‘flex’ stretch. Hold this stretch for 10-30 seconds before repeating the ‘curl’ step.
Make sure that all movements are slow and controlled. Do not overstretch your back.
2. Dead Bugs
This is another great exercise for building back strength which will help your lower back to better support itself during the day.
Lie on your back and bring your legs up to a 90 degree angle from your chest, knees bent. Lift your arms so they are held next to your knees. Your back should be slightly curled so that the vertebrae are in contact with the floor.
Now, the tricky bit! Keeping your core braced so that your back doesn’t bend off the floor, extend your left leg and right arm. Remember to keep your core braced and your back pushed towards the floor to avoid arching the back. Return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg and arm.
3. Use Sports Tape
Sports tape can give your muscles extra support when exercising. I’m not entirely sure it would really benefit the office worker – unless you have a diagnosed weakness or condition, it’s more likely that you simply need to build back strength! – but sports tape has no negative side effects and can help with movement and posture following injury.
Simply line up the tape with the weak or injured muscle(s) or area. Tape helps to gently lift the skin, allowing for greater blood flow to damaged or fatigued muscles.
4. Try Home Massage
Sure, a thorough deep tissue massage is best done by a qualified masseur, but you can get a similar effect using hot stones at home – and it’s a lot cheaper!
Source some flat pebbles about the size of the palm of your hand. Gently warm the stones in some warm water, no hotter than 54 degree Celsius. You can also add massage oil if you like for a soothing aromatherapy feeling.
Gently move the stones along your back in downwards sweeping motions before applying each stone. Line the stones up along the pressure points down your spine. Relax and let the stones do their work!
Three to five minutes is recommended and be sure the stones aren’t too hot!
5. Work On Your Plank
Now this tip won’t relieve back pain immediately, but it will build back strength which reduces pain in the long-term.
To plank, lie on your front with your fists clasped and elbows tucked into your sides. Your forearms should be resting on the floor and your toes tucked under. Push up so your body is off the floor, perfectly parallel. You should feel your body weight through your forearms (via the shoulders) and toes.
Squeeze the muscles in your bottom (glutes) and thighs while tensing your core. Make sure your back isn’t bending in (arching) and your middle isn’t sinking to the floor. Equally, your bottom shouldn’t be sticking up like the downward dog. You are trying to make a straight line from heel to head.