This is a guide for when sitting and spending prolonged periods in one position causes pain.
Research has challenged the idea that there is one perfect posture for every person. Instead, each person may need different advice or need to manage different factors affecting their pain with sitting, or standing.
Spending time in prolonged positions can cause our pain system to react with feelings of tightness, achiness, and pain. A combination of many factors including stress, a bad night’s sleep, and posture habits can lead to pain with activities like sitting.
Pain Doesn’t Always Equal Damage
Pain during sitting and standing can feel scary and frustrating, but pain doesn’t always mean damage. Everyday activities like bending, lifting, twisting, or sitting for long periods often cause people pain and flares without doing any harm or damage to their body.
Almost everyone gets sore from a long car ride. Why someone gets more sore is due to lots of factors.
Tips For Reducing Postural Pain
- Focus on your routine outside of work to improve how you feel during work. What you do outside of work might be more important to how you feel better at work. Start with one thing like moving more, improving your sleep routine, balancing your stress, exercising, etc.
- Find what posture habits provoke your pain and break them up. No posture is inherently bad or best for your body. Whether you slump into your chair, or hold a nice tall posture, look for habits that may specifically provoke your symptoms and break those habits so things can calm down.
- Relax your core. A lot of emphasis has been put on keeping your muscles engaged to protect and straighten your back. This can actually create more pain. Backs are strong despite ongoing pain and constant muscle guarding or tension sensitizes structures of the back. Practice relaxing with everyday activities.
- Explore what works for you! There is no one size fits all fix for pain with sitting. Some people need to stop slumping and some need to slump and relax more. If you have limited how you move or relax in your chair due to past advice, you might use this time to explore other positions.
- Drink more water! You will get up and naturally take a stretch break by walking to the bathroom.
- Your next position is your best position. Sit, stand, relax into your chair, or sit up straight. All are options for you to move in and out of throughout your day. Set up your desk so you can change positions regularly and move into positions that feel good for you.
- Relax, and breathe! Sometimes doing nothing is fine. You don’t always have to focus on changing your pain. Your body can get through this. Focus on other things you can control in the moment.
- O'Sullivan, Peter & Lin, Ivan. (2014). Acute low back pain: Beyond drug therapies. Pain Management Today. 1. 8.
- O’Sullivan, P. B., Caneiro, J. P., O’Keeffe, M., Smith, A., Dankaerts, W., Fersum, K., & O’Sullivan, K. (2018). Cognitive Functional Therapy: An Integrated Behavioral Approach for the Targeted Management of Disabling Low Back Pain. Physical Therapy, 98(5), 408–423. doi:10.1093/ptj/pzy022
- “All I Ever Wanted To Know About Back Pain”. https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2018/0130/937071-all-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-back-pain/
- “Recovery Strategies”. Greg Lehman. greglehman.ca.