How To Keep Chronic Pain From Sitting At A Desk All Day At Bay

We are all guilty of slouching while sitting at a desk. However, there are exercises you can do to reduce the chronic pain associated with it.

By Crystal Murdock | Published

chronic pain

What if it was possible to stop any chronic pain in your back before feeling the onset of the dreaded aches and discomfort?  Vinh Pham, a physical therapist with years of experience, has shared a set of exercises that are aimed to do just that and with consistent practice, he claims he can actually extend a person’s range of motion, which in return will increase the body’s level of flexibility. All of these exercises are aimed at reducing the stress added to the lower back from hours spent sitting at a desk.

Pham has shared his techniques with NPR in hopes of limelight his new book, Sit Up Straight: Futureproof Your Body Against Chronic Pain with 12 Simple Movements. Within his book, you will find recommendations on daily exercises that will take only about fifteen minutes to complete but will prevent chronic pain and back injuries. Pham says to think of these daily activities, just as you would any hygiene plans. Just as one would brush their teeth twice a day to prevent cavities, fifteen minutes of mobility training will up the odds of having fewer chronic pain or back issues from sitting hours at a time.

Pham does disclose that anyone who is pregnant or currently suffers from chronic pain in the back, should consult with their doctor prior to trying these daily exercises. For those of you without these initial concerns, there are four types of exercises Pham has shared to help prevent chronic pain associated with improper stretching, slouching or breaks in between hours of sitting. 

The first of these daily exercises is referred to as “rotating your spine.” This movement of the spine was created to copy the natural body motions of the spine by bending backward, rotating, and side bending. The idea of this exercise is to get your body comfortable with the natural motions of the spine so when the body encounters them in real situations, the body isn’t stressed or feeling any chronic pain. 

The next exercise listed to reduce the stress or chronic pain in the lower back from sitting improperly is called “flossing your spine.” Instead of rotating your spine to align with your natural body movements as stated above, this exercise has you move your upper torso forward and backward. This step is to expose your spine to the opposite stance or motion of being hunched over. The stretching of the nerves alongside the spinal cord will reduce irritation and improve the body’s range of motion. By doing an exercise that is the opposite of improper sitting with slouched shoulders, the risk for chronic pain is extremely reduced. 

Pham explains the importance of the steps on how to teach your body to bend safely. This exercise is aimed at protecting the lower back from any movements by centralizing your sciatic nerve and hamstrings. That nerve runs from the lower back, straight to your hips and hamstrings. This is done by a series of movements that involve staggering the feet.

The final exercise Pham discusses is the importance of extending your big toe. When the movement of your toes is limited, you may not know it, but it impacts your spine health and just like improper sitting, can lead to chronic pain in the back. To remain healthy and keep chronic pain at bay, it is imperative that your body is able to walk, run and move freely.