American jobs are more sedentary than ever before, according to researchers with the American Heart Association. If you’re among the many people who spend several hours per day sitting at a desk for work, you could be directly at risk for experiencing back pain, if you haven’t already.
Robert A. Hayden, a Griffin, Georgia-based chiropractor and representative for the American Chiropractic Association, told HuffPost that a number of factors can contribute to back pain when sedentary, namely misalignments in the spine or pelvis while sitting, awkward postures that create muscle strain and, most commonly, obesity, which places extra stress on muscles and joints.
“The longer you sit at work, the more important the ergonomics of your workstation become,” Hayden said via email. “Are you able to sit straight without slouching? Are your feet on the floor? Is the monitor placed where you don’t have to look down?”
According to Hayden, these are all questions you can ask yourself to determine how ergonomic your desk set up actually is. If it’s not ergonomic, Hayden said, there are some adjustments you can make.
“There are so many people I see with chronic back pain who live with it for years, thinking that it’s a part of the aging process or [from] falling out of a swing when they were five years old,” Hayden said. “The fact is many people have issues that cause chronic back pain that are easily addressed conservatively.”
In addition to visits with your medical health professional, Hayden suggested the following list of home office additions and work style habits that can transform your sedentary desk life into something that won’t cause back pain.
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A foldable under-desk walking pad
When it comes to sedentary work styles, mobility will always be your friend, said chiropractor Robert A. Hayden
"At least hourly, get up and walk around," Hayden said. "Walking redistributes weight and exercises muscles that are not engaged when sitting. This will help with much of your sedentary back pain."
HuffPost's own editors have touted the benefits
of this splurge-worthy folding treadmill that can keep you moving while you work. The Walking Pad offers three quiet speeds that can be controlled using your feet or through a remote, and comes secured on rollers to make maneuvering the pad a breeze. Its most loved feature, however, might be that it can be folded up compactly and stored beneath a bed or sofa when not in use.
HuffPost's senior life editor, Lindsay Holmes
, paired hers with a standing desk.
"You can’t deny the physical benefits. The first day I used the treadmill, I walked over 12,000 steps. My posture was certainly better than it would be sitting hunched over. Walking is also a low-impact way to gain the benefits of exercise; even just 21 minutes of it a day
may reduce the risk of heart disease," she said.
An adjustable electric standing desk
Hayden called adjustable variable height desks "one of the best innovations in workplace ergonomics that offer multiple advantages." These adaptive set ups allow you to sit and stand while you work, thereby promoting movement.
We chose this motorized standing desk, which promises enhanced stability and can be adjusted to four programmable height settings with the touch of a button, based on its high ratings. It's available in two sizes and five finishes.
"Put simply, our bodies are not made to sit for long periods of time," Hayden said. "We are designed to move. Our muscles and joints are healthier in motion."
A tilting ergonomic stool
Another workplace innovation that Hayden brought to our attention is an ergonomic stool. These typically feature a weighted base and a seat that allows a greater range of motion because the stools can wobble 360 degrees when you sit on them.
According to Hayden, replacing the traditional chair at your desk with an ergonomic stool makes a lot of sense because the stool forces your core and postural muscles in your back to engage, thus keeping your posture more erect.
We found this particular wobble stool, which comes in four different colors, has an adjustable height range of 10 inches, an ergonomic sloped seat and weighted dynamic base that allows for a safe range of motion.
An ergonomic kneeling chair
Hayden also cited another type of ergonomic stool on the market that uses a quasi-kneeling position to engage the core muscles while sitting. Hayden said that seating options without a large back force you not to be lazy with your posture.
Based on his explanation, we picked this angled kneeling chair on Amazon that automatically places the body in a naturally upright position and allows for a gentle rocking motion. The wooden frame is adjustable to accommodate different heights and can support up to 250 pounds.
A lumbar support cushion
"If your [current] chair is not comfortable or if it lacks lumbar support, consider the use of support cushions to support the natural curves of your back," Hayden said.
This particular back pillow, which we selected because of its excellent reviews, is made from a thick memory foam and molded to offer complete back support and a gentle maintenance of the spine's contours. It's fitted with a breathable and machine-washable mesh cover to prevent a sweaty back.
An extra-thick yoga mat
"I have become a big fan of yoga and pilates because I have seen the results in our patients," Hayden said. He suggested picking some of your favorite stretches, subtle or otherwise, and doing them a couple of times a day to maintain flexibility.
Based on its high rating, we thought this mat seemed like a good choice for anyone looking to ease their way into yoga practice, because of its thick and cushioned construction and non-slip surface that ensures a superior grip. You can get it in over 36 colors and patterns.
An adjustable cushioned foot rest
If you are short in stature, Hayden suggested considering a small foot rest. "This will affect the angle of your hips and make a difference," he said.
Made from a compression-resistant and high-density memory foam, this footrest can be adjusted to meet your exact height needs. We chose this one in particular because it can also be flipped over on the curved side to transform into a rocking footrest.