Sitting at Work with a Back Pain? Expert Tips to Prevent and Stop the Ache

tips on relieving back pain

With most of us office-bound and stuck to our chairs for at least 8 hours a day, we are no strangers to the dreaded lower back pain. If you suffer from a constant back pain, welcome to the club. Statistics say that 80% of the world’s population will experience the same pain at some point of their lives.

Decoding the Back Pain

Back pain is usually caused by various contributory factors, including poor posture and faulty body mechanics. There are four work-related factors associated with increased risk of back pain:

  1. Force
    Heavy loads are harmful to your back. The force from manually handled weight is exponentially exerted onto our back muscles during physical tasks like lifting, carrying and pushing.

  2. Repetition
    Highly repetitious tasks involving body stretching to the limit of our range of motion can lead to muscle fatigue and injury, which eventually manifests as back pain.

  3. Posture
    Prolonged static or awkward posture while sitting, standing, or performing a task makes your back vulnerable to injury. It’s best to adjust your body position every 20 minutes before you experience any ache or pain.

  4. Stress
    High stress levels may increase your muscle tension and tightness, which may in turn lead to back pain.

As most back pain is mechanical in nature – related to movements and posture – you can prevent back injury by taking the right measures.

Don’t have back pain yet? Great! Prevent it! (3 Steps):

1. Proper posture

Your body needs a good support structure with core strength to carry your weight and go about your daily activities.

When this support structure is weakened, your body will have to work harder to keep your feet, knees, hips, and lower back functioning properly.

This is why proper posture is super crucial to effectively maintain your support structure.

Avoid the backache – your to-do list:

  • Just remember what your mom keeps nagging at you when you were a kid, “Stand up straight, don’t slouch while sitting, arch your back!” Moms really do know best.

  • If standing for a long period, alternatively placing your foot on a low footstool may help eliminate excessive stress over your lower back.

2. Physical conditioning

Regular low impact aerobic exercises will help condition your body without straining your back as these help to improve the strength and endurance of your back muscles.

You should also work on strengthening and stretching exercises for your back and abdominal core muscles. These build up the stability and flexibility of your back and prevent injuries.

Avoid the backache – your to-do list:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Bicycling
  • Jogging
  • Distance running

3. Body mechanics

Body mechanics refer to the way we use our bodies to complete various tasks like lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling in activities of daily life. It is not how much you lift or move, but the way you do it.

Avoid the backache – your to-do list:

  • Avoid bending from the back while lifting something from the floor
  • Squat down at the knees to lift objects up from lower level
  • Adot proper posture and keep the back as straight as possible
  • Avoid overhead reaching and use a sturdy stepstool to reach for high level objects
  • Avoid high-helled shoes
  • Take frequent breaks and pace your tasks


Already Suffering from Back Ache? Fix it:

If the muscle strain isn’t too severe, most back pain will go away in a few days or weeks with some basic self-care. For the first day or two of pain, take it easy. But as soon as possible, ease back into your normal daily life and activities – making sure you avoid things that make your pain worse.

1. Don’t stay in bed

Some people are afraid that doing too much may make their pain worse. And in the past, many people stayed in bed – thinking this would help their backs. The reality is that movement helps your muscles stay strong. Staying in bed for more than one or two days can end up worsening your back problem.

2. Heat up your back

To address symptoms, there is some evidence that heat will help decrease back pain but there is little proof cold compresses will help.

Ice and cold packs can relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation from injuries and other conditions such as arthritis.

3. See a doc

If the pain persists or worsens, it is best to consult a doctor or physical therapist. There may be muscle injuries or other complications you may not be fully aware of. You might also need some form of medication to help relieve the pain and address the underlying cause.

If the back pain becomes chronic or severe, chances are you might also need to undergo follow-up physical therapy and rehabilitation. Such treatment is usually prescribed for those recovering from various traumatic injuries and medical conditions.


Do you lead a sedentary lifestyle where you move very little? Do you think society could do better with more active work instead of office-bound work? Share with us in the comments below or at our Facebook page.


Edited by: The HealthWorks Team
Adapted from: “Back Pain Relief” by E.W. Tan, occupational therapist

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