Could your job be causing you back pain when running?


Could your job be causing you back pain when running?

With the majority of the population working in jobs which require prolonged sitting at desks for 6 hours or more per day, you may be surprised to learn that this could in fact be affecting your running. Rebecca Nelson, Director of Physiotherapy at Apex Clinic and Spinal Physiotherapy Specialist offers some advice to help prevent your sitting job actually causing you back pain when running.


Prolonged sitting at work can be damaging…

Our bodies adapt to what we spend the majority of our time doing, so sitting down for meals, commuting and hours spent slouched over desks means we are conditioned to be held in a sitting position for prolonged periods, which in turn, significantly increases the risk of back pain at the time and afterwards too.

Sitting at a desk all day puts a high load on the discs in your back and therefore increases the risk of a disc injury.  Prolonged sitting also puts your legs in a position of 90 degrees hip flexion (bending) for long periods of time. This means that your hamstrings and hip flexor muscles (at the front of your hips) are held in a shortened position when sitting at your desk.


The best way to sit at your desk to prevent injury:

The minimize the load put on your spine when sitting, it’s essential to adopt the correct posture while sitting. While at work, ensure the middle of your computer monitor is at eye level, and sit with your back reclined backwards, at an angle of approximately 30 to 40 degrees from the vertical, to reduce the load on the lower back discs.  Do not sit upright, in a vertical position as this increases the load on the discs.  Ensure your chair has a lumbar (lower back) support or use a lumbar roll which is clipped around your chair if it doesn’t.   Position your elbows close to your body so that your forearms are resting on your desk, with your thighs, forearms and hands positioned roughly parallel with the floor. Keep your chair pulled in under your desk so that your forearms can rest comfortably on the desk’s edge.


A High-Low desk can save your back:

For those who sit for nearly all of their working day, a high-low desk is highly recommended.  This is a desk which can be altered to be used when seated or, at the push of a pedal, can be raised to be used in a standing position.  It’s a wonderful device for being kind to your lower back at work and can significantly reduce the risk of back injury.  High-low desks can be ordered online.


Break up your sitting:

Furthermore, taking walking breaks are essential to reduce the load on the lower back discs. Try taking a few of your work phone calls standing up. It’s recommended to walk for approximately 5 minutes every ½ hour to minimise the harmful effects of sitting.


Running after work….wait a minute!

After work, your body may suddenly be expected to adapt to running.  If you’ve been sitting all day at work and then maybe driving home, it isn’t advisable to run straight after this.  Running immediately after a day of prolonged sitting is more likely to result in a disk injury while running, because the lower back discs haven’t had time to adapt from the sitting position where they are highly loaded to a running position.  To reduce this risk, it is much better to either- start your run an hour or so after finishing work, when your body has been up and moving around prior to starting your run; or if you are pushed for time, and need to run straight after finishing work, then walk for approximately 10-15 minutes at a gradually increasing pace just before starting your run.  This will give your lower back discs time to recover from the high load that was place on them when sitting, before you run and begin a high impact exercise.  If you are running up hills, try to do these runs when you have had at least an hour of being up and moving around prior to starting these runs.


Important exercises your back will thank you for…

If you have a sitting job, here are a few important exercises that should be done before and after running to help reduce the risk of a lower back injury.  Before running, add this exercise into your warm up routine –

1) Standing upright with both hands on the waistband of your shorts, at your lower back level, gently lean backwards so that your tummy moves forwards and then come up again slowly to the vertical position.  Repeat these bend backs 20 times. This will reduce the pressure within the lower back discs.

After running add these 2 stretches into your post run routine, because these 2 muscle groups tend to become shortened from prolonged sitting –

1) Doorway hamstring stretches – lying on the ground at a doorway.  Place one leg flat on the ground and the other resting up against a wall with your knee straight. (These exercises can be accessed online).  Repeat stretches on alternate legs.  Lying on the ground is the kindest way for your lower back to stretch your hamstrings without injuring your back.

2) Hip flexor stretches in a lunging position.  (see online)

By looking after your back at work you may in fact be prolonging your running life.