Sometimes the best way to combat back pain from sitting all day is simply to find new ways to move. While walking, stretching, and gentle yoga are all definitely effective ways to combat lower back pain when you're stiff from sedentary life at the office or in school, sometimes you just need to figure out new ways to move your body that are going to get the blood pumping, the muscles stretched, and achieve the faraway dream of having a supple body that isn't so sore all the time.
Trust me, as a writer, I know how easy it is to get so lost in your work that you sit at your desk all hunched over like a gargoyle day in and day out, only to end up feeling like your back has taken on the permanent shape of a large letter C. The key to undoing that damage lies in finding enjoyable, effective ways to ease the stiffness and improve your posture.
Plus, not to sound like a PSA, but it's just as important to remember that getting up and moving throughout the day is crucial not just for your physical body, but for your quality of life, too. Macabre as it may seem, some research has shown that sitting as much as we do can actually shorten our life span.
So, give a few of these movements and stretches a shot if you're feeling like you need some fun, and hopefully feel-good physicality for the part of your body that takes a major beating from that chair life.
Nope, I am definitely not kidding about this one. If you want to make it extra fun, put on some of your favorite tunes before you get started.
I've personally been doing this every day when I first wake up in the morning, but I've also been doing it when I know I've been sitting down for way too long. I find that it brings my lower back and legs back to life, and it helps relieve some pain from an old sciatica injury.
Simply brace yourself with one hand on a wall and shake your leg and foot like you're trying to get a spider off of you, then switch sides. I usually add my arms in after that and shake those things like a Polaroid picture, as well.
"Port de bras" is a French phrase that translates to “movement of the arms,” and in ballet specifically, it refers to the way a dancer moves their arms through different positions. It's always a part of a plié barre warm-up as a full-body stretch sequence, so it's a great way to use your arms as a graceful guide to stretching your back in all kinds of directions.
For my lower back, I find the side-stretching element of a port de bras to be particularly effective, keeping one arm gently placed on a desk edge or chair back with my feet turned out in a first or second position, then changing sides.
This move is obviously pretty simple, but it's super effective in loosening up your lower back and engaging your core as a bit of a strengthening exercise.
Pro tip: A rather "dramatized" swing of the arms is a great way to stretch your upper back and shoulders in this movement as an added bonus for improved mobility and circulation.
Pigeon pose is a great hip-opener, and in yoga, it typically happens on the ground. But that can be a difficult thing to do if you want to do a quick stretch at the end of the day in the office, and it can also require some extra strength in the lower back.
An easy way to get the hip-opening benefits of this pose while supporting and relieving the lower back is by lifting your bent leg onto a table or desk edge. Support yourself with both hands on either side of the bent leg and let your own mobility be your guide as you ease into a stretch in the hip. Keep your standing leg facing forward, turned parallel, with your tailbone guided gently under and down to the floor.
I know, I know. This one sounds like beyond basic BS. But seriously, fidgeting in your seat and shaking it all out a bit while you sit has legit health benefits. It relieves tension in your back and shoulders, promotes circulation, and even helps prevent that "dead leg" feeling when you've been on your butt for too long. So, even if you have to pull through that last half hour at work with a tight and achey back, try to fidget and move all your limbs right where you are to relieve the tension.
Stretch and shake your legs, interlace your fingers and put your arms overhead for a stretch, and roll out that neck. Remembering to move, stretch, and switch positions — even when you're sitting — is definitely a way to combat stiffness in little doses.
And no, fidget spinning doesn't count, guys.