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Why back pain is prevalent in people who work a desk job

Written by Adrian Choy, Exercise Physiologist at Blacktown. Article from June 2019

Why Back Pain Is Prevalent In People Who Work A Desk Job

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Unfortunately, lower back pain is very common in the sedentary population who are required to spend >7hrs a day, 5 days a week in a chair. Majority of the time, it is about load management. What I mean by this is the lumbar spine is very much the middle point of the body and will take on loads it is not supposed if systems above or below are not playing their role. An example of this would be that the bottom muscles act as a cushion to disperse load from the lower back, now if this large group is not strong but rather lengthened and weak, the job of taking the load is the lumbar spine. If rounded shoulders become a habit and a permanent part of one’s posture, this can lead to a kyphotic posture ultimately influencing everything beneath it.

What may follow is the curvature of the spine changing to maintain one’s centre of mass which means the undesired curve of the hips and lumbar spine then causing back pain. Another example would involve the front of the hips. Due to maintaining a flexed hip position most of the time, this can make for quite shortened and weak hip flexor muscles. The hip flexors wrap from the front upper femur to the lumbar spine. Because they are weak and connect to the lower back, this will cause issues of poor load management through the back.

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There is a solution though. Because lower back pain is so common, there are many exercise strategies to relieve it long term. My tip would be that if someone is not exercising, see an Exercise Physiologist to assess the level of back pain they are experiencing. EP’s will then be able to dictate the starting point of an exercise program with the end goal of having a 0-2/10 pain rating. Exercise options to begin with would include glute bridges, hip abductions, regressed plank variations, pushup variations, banded or dumbbell rows, and various core strengthening exercises.

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