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Back Pain and Desk Jobs

Updated on April 2, 2009

There are millions of people reading this right now who are working at a desk, either in an office or at home.  I am one of those people, as I have worked at a desk most of my adult life.  I currently work from home, with my main job being a publicist and freelance writer.  So I'm basically chained to my desk at least 10 hours a day, which can be brutal on my back.  It doesn't help that I have already been diagnosed with a herniated disk in my lower back, and sometimes the pain from sitting for long periods of time is absolutely excruciating.  I've dealt with this for almost five years, so it's nothing new and something I've tried to manage with various methods and still do--chiropractic, pain meds and cortisone shots, physical therapy, losing weight and strength training, epidural injections, acupuncture, etc. 

If you suffer from lower back pain caused by sitting, or from a sports injury, or chronic condition, here are some tips to help you make the pain easier to handle while you toil away at that desk job:

1. Have the proper chair--It's important to spend the money on a good, back-friendly chair that will help you sit up straight and put the least amount of pressure on those disks that are holding your spine together.  I also have a special footstool that keeps my back straight.  If you work for someone, ask if they would consider paying for a chair upgrade, and if not, if they wouldn't mind if you bought your own. 

2. Get up and stretch--I am guilty of not doing this enough.  I have a list of physical therapy exercises I am supposed to do every day and in some cases every hour, but I get caught up in my work and don't feel like stopping.  But often, I force myself to get up and walk around, or do some stretches to ease my aching back.  This is so important and not worth blowing off, believe me.

3. Use ice and/or heat--I have one of those portable ice packs that I keep in my freezer and I ice my back every morning, and sometimes throughout the day.  I also sometimes alternate that with a heating pad, in particular after a workout when my muscles are sore too. 

4. Eat the right foods--Eating junk and processed carbs and sugary foods makes you gain weight quickly.  And gaining weight adds pounds to your midsection which puts more pressure on your spine.  It's important to try to eat healthy snacks and meals, especially if you are eating at your desk like me.  Stick to veggies, nuts, low fat cheese, fruit and yogurt for healthy snack options.  Also, drink lots of water.  If anything, this will make you go to the bathroom more, which forces you to get up and walk around.

5. Strengthen your core--I am currently working out with a personal trainer to strengthen my core (abs, in particular) and put less pressure on my back muscles.  A weak set of muscles around the spine, especially when pressure from sitting for long periods is placed on them, spells trouble for your aching back. 

I hope these tips are helpful.  Please add anything that's worked for you, or share your comments in general with the rest of us who suffer from lower back pain at work.  Good luck!



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    • ocbill profile image

      ocbill 5 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

      I got mine sleeping on a bad mattress. Small pain that morning, then a few hours later severe pain that handicapped me that I could not even change my socks, walk, sit, lie down everything was too subsided after 3 weeks but still lingers. A 2 out of 10 on pain scale now, instead of 11. I just can't wait to get back to working out. that is the frustrating part and I do work on a computer most of the day.

    • profile image

      Jake 8 years ago

      re #1 and #2: I found that using a DESK that adjusts in height was the most helpful of all. The one I finally bought, a GeekDesk, Mini, has worked our wonderfully, and I'm totally spoiled now... SO much better for my back, I literally feel it. Highly recommended.

    • profile image

      Rich 8 years ago

      I also have lower back pain from sitting for long periods of time at my computer. I was thinking of raising my monitor and keyboard so I could work at my computer in a standing position. It seems that would eliminate the problem. What would be ideal would be an adjustable keyboard and monitor that could be lowered and raised so you could continue working in either a sitting or standing position.