Tips to combat lower back pain caused by sedentary work life

Wednesday, 25 February, 2015


Musculoskeletal back pain is estimated to have affected 70-90% of the Australian population at some point in their lives. The majority of those that suffer have experienced ‘simple’ back pain; however, others may suffer from neural pain (sciatica), structural pain (scoliosis) and chronic back pain.

Matthew Squires, founder of Physio Gym physiotherapy, estimates that up to 50% of his members seek out physiotherapy because of lower back pain. According to Squires, simple back pain is generally caused by mechanical overload of soft tissue such as the muscles, disc and ligaments in the spine. This can be caused by prolonged sitting, poor posture, incorrect lifting and physical stress.

“We’re not designed to sit down for 8-12 hours a day, so it is not surprising that so many Australians suffer from lower back pain. It’s the equivalent of driving from Sydney to Byron Bay and halfway back in a day! Unsurprisingly, many professionals complain of feeling drained and exhausted after a long day staring at the screen,” said Squires.

Squires’ top five tips for easing the symptoms of back pain at work

  1. People should spend five minutes of exercise for every hour that is spent sitting (eg, if you work a 40-hour week, you need to do at least 3.5 hours of exercise).
  2. Keep a glass of water on your desk, rather than a larger bottle, to force you to get up and refill it.
  3. Do regular stretches while sitting, such as neck, shoulder and spinal twists and hip flexor stretches.
  4. Talk to your superiors about investing in ergonomic equipment.
  5. Schedule a ‘walk-and-talk’ meeting - you’d be surprised how much quicker you get through an agenda when you’re on your feet.

Squires advises that sufferers should always seek advice for a diagnosis initially before applying manual therapy that specifically targets the injured tissue. This should then be followed by targeted exercises to relieve pain. Critically, a rapid-response approach in the first two weeks can focus your brain to help heal the body to prevent the chances of developing long-term recurrent back pain, he said.

Physio Gym physiotherapy specialises in the Gyrotonic method, a process of combining specific equipment and targeted exercises to resolve pain and build the resilience of the spine. The equipment retrains the body, coordinates the movements, corrects compensatory movements and trains the core.

The method systemically builds the core strength of the body and links it into the movements of the arms and legs. It differs to Pilates because it encourages the occurrence of spinal dynamic movements. It also explores the rotation elements of the spine to correct muscle imbalances, correct stiff joints and elongate the spine.

“It is a proven fact that back pain can affect your home life, work life, fitness and mental health. Knowing how to combat this pain, through simple ‘at-home’ methods and through more significant solutions with the aid of a physiotherapist, is key in leading a happy and productive life,” said Squires.

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