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Employee Wellness: 5 Tips to Reduce Low Back Pain

Man working at a desk with back pain

Is your lower back bothering you again? You’re not alone. Some of your co-workers are likely experiencing the same frustration even if no one is talking about it. According to an NCHS Data Brief, 39% of adults over age 18 experienced back pain within the prior three months.

Whether you work at a computer or perform manual labor, your daily habits and movement patterns can contribute to low back pain or injury. Fortunately, you don’t have to simply suffer through it.

Use these five natural tips to prevent and relieve low back pain that stems from prolonged sitting, weak muscles, and lack of physical activity. Be sure to share them with your co-workers as well!

1. Move frequently

While it may seem counterintuitive, more movement and exercise and less rest may help reduce back pain. Constant sitting and lack of activity can cause stiffness and put pressure on the vertebrae. You can combat this by moving and stretching frequently throughout the day. Schedule a 20-30 minute workout before or after work such as a brisk walk, run, swim, weight lifting or basketball game with friends. During work, set a reminder every hour to move around. This could be a short walk, a two-minute stretch routine, a few yoga sun salutations, or simply standing up during your next phone meeting. If possible, see if your workplace will provide you with a standing desk so you have the option to stand or sit during the day. Switching positions can help relieve pressure and allow you to stretch out your legs.

2. Stretch and foam roll your hamstrings

Speaking of stretching your legs, if you spend your days at a desk or sitting in meetings it is likely that you have tight hamstrings (the muscles on the back of your thighs). This occurs because a seated posture puts the hamstrings in a shortened position. Unless you’re proactive about stretching the back of your legs, these muscles become tighter over time and may pull on your pelvis, creating tension in the lower back.

If you have access to a foam roller you can start by foam rolling your hamstrings to loosen up knots in your muscles and get blood flowing to the area. Then do this simple hamstrings stretch which allows you to relax your back. If you can’t lie down, try this standing hamstring stretch for a quick way to loosen up at your desk.

3. Counteract a rounded back

If you spend most of your day sitting or hunched over while working on projects, your back can become weak or strained. You can strengthen these muscles and counteract a rounded low back by performing an exercise called “supermans”. These can be done daily before or after work, or during work breaks if you have a fitness center. If it is inconvenient to lie down, you can also try a standing exercise called the “McKenzie press up” while standing against a wall for a similar effect.

4. Strengthen your core

“Core” is a broad term for the center of your body which includes abdominal muscles, back muscles, deep internal muscles, and even the hip flexors and gluteal muscles. It is critical to keep these muscles strong if you want to avoid back pain. They work together like a back brace to help stabilize and support the spine, maintain proper posture, and improve balance. Try to spend about 10-15 minutes three to five days per week strengthening your core with the exercises below. See how to do these five core exercises here.

  • Elbow planks (hold 30-60 sec)

  • Side Planks (hold 10-30 sec)

  • Birddog (10-15 reps each side)

  • Dead bug (10-15 reps each side)

  • Hip bridge (10-20 reps)

5. Anti-inflammatory diet

Some back pain is related to general inflammation in the body or in certain muscles. Eating a pro-inflammatory diet can contribute to pain while a diet that includes plenty of anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce pain. Some tasty foods that help fight inflammation include berries and cherries, salmon and other fatty fish, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and herbs like turmeric and ginger. Foods to avoid include processed meats like salami and sausages, refined carbohydrates like white bread and pastries, sugary foods and drinks like soda and cookies, and fried foods like potato chips and French fries. Make a goal to include at least three anti-inflammatory foods in your meals each day. For example, berries and golden milk tea with breakfast, a salad with dark leafy greens at lunch, and walnuts for a snack.

The Core of it All

Lower back pain often stems from lack of movement, weak muscles, and poor dietary habits. It is often preventable or reversible by strengthening your core, stretching tight muscles and moving regularly to reduce stress and increase blood flow. Try implementing these tips before turning to NSAIDs or other pain relievers which temporarily relieve pain but do not fix the root cause and can have long-term effects on your kidney and liver health. While exercise and healthy eating may not always provide the quick fix, these natural methods are far more effective in relieving your pain in the long run.

Learn more about Wellness Workdays and our wellness program offerings by downloading our brochure.

Written by: Holly Soto, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern



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1 Comment

Oct 09, 2023

Oh, this is a very common problem with this back pain, because a sedentary lifestyle and sedentary work in general affect a person's health very quickly. As someone who has been working from home for several years, I can say that physical activity is extremely necessary and important for people like me. Moreover, not only physical activity but also mental activity, i.e., you need to disconnect from work for a while to let your brain rest. Luckily, I was able to find a service that I can use when I go for a walk and that completely distracts me from work in my free time, so I can say that I found the perfect option that suits me perfectly.

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