Top 10 Exercises to Prevent Low Back Pain in Desk Sitting Office Workers

Back pain is estimated to affect 80% of us at least once in our lifetime. When we went from a population that breaks rocks, digs trenches, and shovels coal (or smellier stuff) for a living to a population that crunches numbers, analyses spreadsheets and reads reports, there was a general feeling that we would see a decrease in low back pain. Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in low back pain with our more modern lifestyle. There has been a lot of press recently about the dangers of sitting. Back pain is one problem, among many, that is made worse by sitting for 8 hours a day. The good news; there are many simple things we can do to help ourselves. When these things don’t work, then it would be time to book an appointment with a skilled massage therapist, Physiotherapist, and/or chiropractor to help with your back pain. Here are 10 simple tips to prevent (or ease) lower back pain associated with sitting for a whole day.

1. Walk

low back pain walk

Walk More

Walking is a low-risk, high-reward exercise for lower back pain. Walking at brisk (fast enough to move your arms) pace creates a motion that is very friendly to all of the structures of the lower back. It is important to start small (time and distance wise). Try walking around the block a few times each night and build up from there. If you are having pain with walking, you may be walking for too long at one time. Some hands-on and/or exercise therapy to reduce lower back pain could be helpful before beginning a walking plan to allow optimal movement.

2. Stand-Up, At least once an hour

Low Back Pain Solutions

Sitting to Standing Example

It is easy to get lost in our work. When working on a project that requires hours of your attention, set a timer, on your phone or even a kitchen timer, to go off once or twice an hour. When the timer goes off stand straight up and reach for the ceiling. Repeat each hour throughout the day. This routine is an excellent exercise to prevent low back pain in office workers, especially those who are prone to sitting for long stretches of the day.

3. Exercise (Of Any Kind)

low back pain exercise

Exercise More

Most research on the topic suggests that people who are active suffer low back pain less frequently than their sedentary counterparts. Find a sport or activity that you like, and do it often. The benefits will be numerous. If you are concerned about what exercises/activities might be most appropriate for you, it would be best to consult with a professional like a physiotherapist or chiropractor before beginning a new exercise regime. Some studies suggest that resistance exercises may be slightly more beneficial, but all exercise is helpful.

4. Seek out Solutions

Physio Vancouver

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If you have, or are worried about, lower back pain, there are many caring and qualified professionals who can give you treatment, advice, strategies,  and exercises for lower back pain (shameless painPRO plug:

5. Take a (Wide and staggered) Stance

low back pain cause and fix

Try it out for yourself!

Standing for longer periods (like in a meeting or at a convention) can also aggravate pain. Stagger your feet slightly when standing, and try rocking front to back instead of side to side. This can reduce lower back pain and may prevent it from showing up in the first place.

6. Use the Golfers’ Lift

low back pain pick up

Golfers Lift

Have you ever wondered why golfers stick their leg back when retrieving a ball from the hole? These ladies and gents have no time for back issues (and neither should you). When picking something (even a pen or piece of paper) off the floor let one leg trail behind and even come off the floor a little. This lower back exercise can reduce the stress that normally comes with bending. Try to make a habit of doing this when bending at the office, gym, and your home, it will be less painful.

7. Hinge at the Hips

low back pain tips

The Bad and the Good!

Bending over to do something like pet the dog, wash the dishes, or brush your teeth can aggravate lower back pain. A simple exercise for the lower back is to practice bending at the hips, instead of the low back, when performing bending tasks. A common technique employed in physiotherapy for office workers, is to practice this skill until it becomes automatic.

8. Build the Core

low back pain exercise

Core Exercise

I think we have all received this advice. The way we build our core is important. Research indicates that decreased endurance of core muscles can put us at risk of lower back pain. Exercises should focus on stiffening the core and should be held for about ten seconds. 

9. Squat

low back pain squat

Squat More

Having good movement through the hips is important for lots of things, but can prevent lower back pain. Try to do one full squat, once a day. That’s all.

10. Remain Neutral

low back pain tips

Try it out!

Our core has the ability to move in many different ways. Some sports and activities require this motion. Many sports, and activities, however, can be performed successfully with a stiff and neutral core. If we can save motion in the spine and core for when we need it, this may prevent low back injuries in everyone, not just office workers. When possible, try to stiffen the core, and make it straight when generating movement. Being aware of this can, ultimately, prevent the onset of lower back pain.

For more information on this topic, check out our post on Core Training for Runners and book an appointment with our Kinesiologist.


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