You're at your desk at work, and your lower back begins to send shooting pain all the way up to your neck. You're practically cringing in pain, but you don't necessarily want to be that person at the office who just busts out a downward dog next to the water cooler. While I have definitely —and shamelessly — been that person, I know you're probably on the lookout for some low-key sitting stretches for lower back pain you can do at your desk without making it look like you're preparing for a Hamilton audition in your cubicle.
First of all, what exactly is going on in your back when you're sitting at your desk all day to make it ache like that? Joan Vernikos, a former NASA scientist and author of Designed to Move: The Science-Backed Program to Fight Sitting Disease and Enjoy Lifelong Health, told Thrillist that she discovered that prolonged sitting can lead to the same negative health effects on the body — like muscle and bone degeneration and soreness — that astronauts experience after being in microgravity:
When you're sitting, your spine is compressing. In space, you get taller by one to two inches, and if you lay in bed, you'll also get taller, because your discs are expanding.
But when astronauts return from space or people get out of bed, their vertebrae collapse onto each other and cause pain. This is also happening when you sit for a long period of time.
Basically, being at work all day is... kind of like being an astronaut. Neat, right? She added that, when you sit a lot, "the muscles have weakened and the vertebrae start collapsing, squeezing the padding and nerves between the discs. This is a huge source of pain."
Vernikos' recommendation? Don't stay in one position too long! Even if you're stuck at your desk, keep yourself moving around and stretching as much as possible. Here are a few movements to get you started.