Work Wellness

How to Prevent Back Pain When Sitting: A Complete Guide

Avatar of Autonomous Autonomous | Feb 18, 2021
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Sitting for long periods of time can eventually cause back pain or worsen an already existing cause. This back pain occurs because sitting and maintaining a static posture considerably stresses your back, arms, legs, and shoulders. It also piles up significant pressure on your back muscles and spinal discs. In general, various things can cause back pain when sitting, but the main reasons can be summarized as bad posture and sitting for too long. 

In this article, we elaborate on some of the causes of back pain while also explaining some countermeasures that can help you alleviate this pain or avoid it altogether. If your back hurts when sitting and working in your office or while playing video games, you can read this guide to find a solution.

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What Are Some Common Causes of Back Pain While Sitting?

There are many causes of back pain, and the magnitude of the pain dramatically varies from person to person. Somebody with a muscle strain might find himself mildly bothered, while another might find himself nearly incapacitated. Occasionally, the pain can appear and decrease after a while, just to come back after some time while quickly worsening.

Back pain while sitting manifests most of the time as lower back pain, and some causes are the following:

Axial Pain

One of the most common causes of lower back pain when sitting is axial back pain. This back pain can vary greatly; the pain can be sharp or dull, and it can be felt either intermittently or continuously. Another name for axial pain is mechanical pain because it stems primarily from muscles, joints, bones, and ligaments around the spine. As the symptoms resolve themselves after some time, there is usually no need to identify the specific structure responsible for the pain, as long as you take the proper measures.

Axial Pain

Tailbone Pain (Coccydynia)

Another cause of lower back pain when sitting is tailbone pain, also called coccydynia. This pain occurs around the coccyx, which is the bone structure at the spine’s bottom. Coccydynia emerges mainly due to direct trauma to the tailbone or bad posture. The pain is mostly felt when you place weight on your tailbone, which happens when you sit, lean back on a chair, or lean back against a wall.

Muscle Strain

It’s also called a lumbar sprain, although they aren’t the same, mainly because both happen on soft tissue, and both have almost the same symptoms and treatment. The muscle strain symptoms manifest as a dull and achy low back pain, felt in many different movements, and it’s significantly relieved while resting or reclining with your legs elevated. One of the causes of low back muscle strain is a poor posture, particularly slouching forward too much, which strains the low back muscles and the spine.

Upper back pain while sitting isn’t as commonplace. If you’re sitting, having a poor posture where the person favors one side more than the other can lead to pain in the upper back. This action strains the upper back muscles and weakens them. It also puts more pressure on your spine, ligaments, and other soft tissues.

Muscle Strain

What Can You Do to Prevent Back Pain While Working or Gaming?

If you’re wondering how to prevent back pain as you sit while working, gaming, or streaming, there are a couple of useful tips of mitigating back pain that you can follow to relieve yourself from that feeling or to circumvent it completely.

Get Ergonomically Designed Products

There are plenty of supportive products designed to improve your health and wellbeing while sitting, working, or gaming. These ergonomic products are an excellent solution for anybody who has back pain when sitting. They make the products more comfortable to use while generally reducing the rate of injuries. Some of the ergonomic products that you can use while working or gaming are the following:

1. Ergonomic Chairs

These ergonomic chairs allow you to sit comfortably during long periods of time while working, gaming, or streaming. Compared to your standard office chair or regular chair, they let you adjust them to fit any body size or seating preference. They are made to improve your productivity and focus while giving you a satisfying experience, and most importantly, they reduce the risks of back pain. You can take ErgoChair 2 and Kinn Chair from Autonomous into consideration. 

A good ergonomic chair with adjustable armrests and back support reduces your back pain by supporting your natural posture and reducing the overall stress that sitting has on your body. The chair’s backrest tends to completely cover your back’s length, going from your shoulder to the seat. There’s also a section on the lower part of the backrest designed to match your spine’s curve naturally. This part of the chair is commonly called lumbar support as it aids your lumbar spine.

These chairs also have adjustable armrests that support both your elbows and forearms while your arms hang at your sides. This position alleviates the stress and fatigue on your shoulders and arms while using your laptop or desktop computer. You can also adjust the seat’s height to a comfortable level, and some chairs backrest can be moved forward or backward, allowing you to customize the seat’s depth.

Ergonomic Chairs

Many of these chairs use higher quality materials compared to other regular office chairs. Both their seat and back cushions are better and thicker, and they have a better fit. Other chairs have additional lumbar support in the form of hip and neck cushions or advanced adjustability. Every ergonomic chair manufacturer’s design goal is to give you the most comfortable sitting experience that any person can easily tailor to their needs while preventing the most common cause of lower back pain when sitting.

On the other hand, ergonomic gaming chairs offer the same benefits, if not more, than the regular office ergonomic chairs. They mainly have more daring and bold designs, sporting both flashy colors and aesthetics. Many come with neck and hip cushions included by default.

However, it’s a fact that many high-end gaming chairs have a remarkable range of adjustability on their armrests and other parts when speaking of notable features. Streamers and gamers looking for a comfortable ergonomic chair can settle with a nicely designed ergonomic gaming chair. They fit the gaming rig’s aesthetic and provide them with a fitting solution for when their back hurts when sitting.

2. Ergonomic Desks

When people talk about ergonomic desks, they are referencing standing desks. You can easily adjust these desk’s height to give yourself the means to stand up and stretch while continuing to work, improving your health and wellbeing. Regular fixed height desks force you to adjust your chair’s height to correctly fit the desk’s height, which doesn’t always have good results. They also limit your activity as they only encourage one position for the time you use it, which can lead you to cement a bad sitting posture.

The height-adjustable standing desks give you plenty of options in your working and gaming positions. It allows people of all builds and sizes to have a good posture, which prevents some health conditions and ultimately averts back pain when sitting. Changing postures a couple of times a day lets you remain focused and alert on your work and games. The standing desks also enable you to stay active while you’re in your workspace, preventing both upper and lower back pain when sitting.

Ergonomic Desks

3. Ergonomic Input Devices

Using ergonomic devices in your workspace can reduce your injuries due to repetitive strain. In particular, ergonomic keyboards are effective in reducing it as they give you a better typing position compared to a standard keyboard. It complements the other ergonomic products by providing you with a better overall natural posture.

Ergonomic Input Devices

Correctly Set up Your Chair and Desk

It’s essential to adjust your desk’s height and your chair’s features to fit you in the most comfortable way possible. Getting an ergonomic chair and desk is only the first part of the job because having them alone can’t protect your back. It can still cause you lower back pain when sitting if it isn’t properly adjusted. You can take a couple of steps to ensure that you have your chair correctly adjusted to fit your body and desk.

1. Sit as close to the desk as you comfortably can

You must be in a naturally relaxed position to avoid leaning into your monitor’s display while you’re working, streaming, or gaming. Every object you frequently use should be within your arm’s reach, reducing the need of inappropriately stretching out to grab them, slightly decreasing the chances of straining a muscle or ligament.

Sit as close to the desk as you comfortably can

2. Adjust your chair’s height using your knees as a guideline for the suitable stature

The correct height is where you sit with your feet lying flat on the floor while keeping your knees at an equal level or slightly lower than your hips. Another way to do it is by standing in front of the chair and adjusting the seat’s height, so the highest point is just below your knee cap.

If your arms are lower than the disk's surface, you have to tweak your chair’s height until it’s slightly above it. This step might prove challenging if you’re using a desk with a fixed height, as it might not accurately fit with your chair depending on both the sizes of you and your desk. Here is when having a height-adjustable standing desk proves highly convenient if you want to ensure that you can properly arrange your setup without worry.

Adjust your chair’s height using your knees as a guideline for the suitable stature

3. Set up your armrests

You must properly set up your armrests by sitting upright and bending your elbows at a 90-degree angle. Then you adjust the armrest’s height in a way they touch the elbow’s underside, letting them slightly lift your shoulders at a relaxed position. If this isn’t possible, or the chair doesn’t have adjustable armrests, remove them altogether.

Set up your armrests

4. Adjust your backrest

Adjust your backrest by leaning against it accordingly and placing a clenched fist between the chair’s front edge and your calves. If there isn’t enough space, it means that the backrest is too deep, and you need to move it forward. When the chair’s backrest can’t be adjusted, use either a pillow, a cushion, or a towel to adapt it.

Adjust your backrest

5. Check if your display is at the correct resting eye level

The top of the monitor must either match your neutral eyesight or be slightly above it. If it is too low, you can use books to raise the display. Having to incline your head while you work lightly can eventually cause back pain when sitting. This inclination might lead you to slouch forward, which in itself can cause upper back pain while sitting.

Check if your display is at the correct resting eye level

Practice Correct Posture

It depends on you to properly practice a correct posture with an accurately set up chair and desk. Slouching forward and slumping back are both things that contribute to poor posture and increase your lower back pain when sitting if you leave it unchecked.

Crossing your legs is something that you might find comfortable, but it shifts a large part of your weight to your lower back and coccyx, which is very harmful in the long run. Ultimately, if your back hurts when sitting, the best way to care for it is by having a good posture because while having ergonomic products makes it more straightforward for you, it doesn’t force you to sit appropriately.

Practice Correct Posture

Stay Active

Even if you have excellent posture and ergonomic furniture to prevent your back pain, it still doesn’t mean that you can safely sit for many hours. The main problem is remaining stationary too long, so you should stand up and stretch every once in a while when you’re working.

It would help if you took advantage of every opportunity during work or a break between games to do something else entirely for a while. If that isn’t possible, taking a short minute to stretch every 30 minutes can be very beneficial. You can also do some back stretching exercises to release some of the stress and pain accumulated while sitting still.

In the end, it rests on you to follow the tips and change some of your habits. Doing so can significantly reduce the stress your back suffers over your lifetime, and remember to take a stretch every once in a while and practice good posture.

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