Back pain, posture and the importance of movement

20.03.17 by Thomas Millar

Long working hours, sitting at a desk for hours on end, driving our cars place to place. Do we ever sit and think about how we are sitting?  Whether we are set up in the correct position? Or if we move enough throughout the day?

As a sports therapist I commonly see neck, shoulder and back pain, it’s so regular that I can often identify the issue by one simple question; what do you do for a living? The percentage of people that answer with some form of desk job is almost 100.  Assessing back pain is common in the world of therapy as explained by Kim, Et al (2014). Movement and posture tests are used to find the causes of lower back pain, allowing therapists to then be able to offer guidelines for the management of lower back pain.

Sitting at desks for long periods is a massive issue in today’s society but addressing the issues is relatively straight forward. Take a look at the picture above, here is a common example of the wrong way to sit. The first thing in the picture is the head and neck position. The top of the spine, head and neck is forward, which can cause strain and pain to the neck. Additionally, in a hunched forward position can increase stress on our spinal discs. The head takes up 1/7 of the body weight, if we are still with the head leant forwards then this exerts 3.6 times more force than if we were in a straight standing posture (Kim et al. 2016). Secondly, there is a curvature in at the top of the spine which can cause us to round. This may be due to weak upper back muscles.

Limited hip flexion can alter our pelvis position and can cause lower back pain due to poor pelvis movement (Kim et. al 2014). Limited range of hip flexion with lower back pain can contribute to an increase range of lower back flexion and posterior pelvis tilting (pelvis tilts backwards and pulls on the lower back) while sitting.

What to look out for: Look at your chair position, if your computer screen is positioned at you eye line. Check for roundness through your shoulders and if your head is in line with your body. Make sure your knees are lower than your hips and that your desk chair supports your spine.

Long term use of electronics and poor sitting positions can lead to muscle imbalances around the neck, chest and back. A muscle imbalance reduces the functional movements of the body and as a result, weakens soft tissues. You may then be left with some muscles not activating correctly and others over working (Kim et al. 2016). So that’s my job! To find out what muscles are over working and which ones need activating to help restore functionality! Through functional testing, every muscle can be isolated and tested to understand if the muscle is functioning correctly.

Movement has been found to show positive effects on pain and to improve daily functioning. Literature shows that the effect of exercise to control and reduce back pain is an effective treatment. Treatment consists of controlling movements between the body and brain, and as a result can improve the overall physical ability of the body (Dehkordi et al. 2017). Even if it is just taking a walk around the office, performing a cat stretch or doing some leg reaches will all contribute to having a healthy back!

It’s so important to be aware of our body and how it moves, after all it needs looking after!

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.





Hasanpour-Dehkordi, A., Dehghani, A. and Solati, K. (2017) ‘A comparison of the effects of Pilates and McKenzie training on pain and general health in men with chronic low back pain: A Randomized trial’, 23(1).

Kim, E.K. and Kim, J.S. (2016) Correlation between rounded shoulder posture,. Available at: https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jpts/28/10/28_jpts-2016-524/_pdf.

Kim, S., Kwon, O., Yi, C., Cynn, H., Ha, S. and Park, K. (2014) ‘Lumbopelvic motion during seated hip flexion in subjects with low-back pain accompanying limited hip flexion’, 23(1).

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