By Jed S. Vanichkachorn, MD, MBA, MSHA
With back pain being one of the most frequent complaints adults have, it’s important to note that the type of back pain someone can experience varies. You can have back pain while standing, lower back pain, middle back pain, pain that worsens with activity, or, what we frequently notice, is people complaining about back pain while sitting. With millions of adults in the US working in an office environment, it’s important to recognize the best course of action for this type of back pain.
What Are the Symptoms?
Back pain experienced while sitting is often felt in the lower back, but moves towards the upper back over a long period of time. It gets worse the longer a person sits, and it can cause numbness in the legs and other physiological problems. The patient may experience tightness, swelling, or even muscle spasms.
Reasons for Back Pain While Sitting
Some people might experience back pain while sitting because their office chair is inappropriate for their body type or it doesn’t provide proper lumbar support. Poor posture, like slouching or hunching over, can also cause pain in the lower back. Other times, however, the problem has an underlying cause that requires the care of a physician. One common cause for this type of back pain is generalized disc disease. Discs are cushions – dynamic structures that deteriorate as we age. Sitting in one position for a long time keeps the discs constantly compressed, which can lead to degeneration. Other possible causes are sciatic pain, neural compression, ruptured disc, bone spurs or spinal stenosis.
Treatment for Back Pain While Sitting
Some people choose to go to a chiropractor for manipulative therapy, which can help but doesn’t address generalized disc disease. There are ads on TV for decompression therapy, but insurance doesn’t cover it and there are no proven long term benefits. Sometimes the patient will be prescribed anti-inflammatories to ease inflammation and pain, and this medication program might be combined with physical therapy. If a patient fails to see any improvement with non-surgical treatment, lumbar spinal fusion surgery might be an option for generalized disc disease.
In cases of spinal stenosis, laminectomy surgery can help relieve pain. There are surgeries for lumbar herniated discs, bone spurs and more. While surgery isn’t the first line treatment, it is an option for patients who can’t find relief any other way. Many of these surgeries are non-invasive with quicker recovery times than ever before.
How to Prevent Back Pain While Sitting
While there have certainly been improvements to the treatment of back pain, the best treatment plan is one that includes prevention. To prevent pain and avoid disc degeneration, it is important that a person be aware of how they sit, that they use an ergonomic office chair, and that they get up every 30-45 minutes to decompress the discs in the back. Changing seat position can help when getting up is not an option. When a patient is not at their desk, exercise to strengthen the core and formal stretching can keep the body strong and flexible so that it is not as vulnerable to conditions that can cause pain.
If you have back pain while sitting and want relief, contact us to schedule an appointment.