03/10/2022 by Laura Barnum
Too Much Computer Time Means Low Back Pain
Have you ever had lower back pain that appeared out of nowhere? Like one day your lower back is just achy, tight, or stiff? You’ve had no trauma, no accident, no sports injury. There’s just suddenly pain. What’s going on?
It could be time spent on your computer. Maybe your computer posture or poor ergonomics are putting a strain on your low back. Many of our patients are surprised to learn that not moving much, or staying in one position for too long, can cause pain.
We need computers to get just about anything done these days. Low back pain from computer use can feel unavoidable, and frustrating, but there are ways to stop it.
What causes low back pain when using a computer?
Poor ergonomics are often the cause — like doing computer work from the couch for hours on end, or having a desk and chair set up that isn’t ergonomically fit for you. People often get lost in the task they are doing on their computer, oftentimes feeling hyper focused or stressed out. When we’re working or playing on a computer, we usually are not very body-aware.
Who tends to get low back pain from computer use?
Most of us use computers for work, school, shopping, or personal business. Computer use is so common that 80% of us will feel low back pain at some point or another. Anyone who uses a computer is at risk. College students trying to finish their papers, moms researching backpacks for their child, and elderly folks enjoying photos all can get this condition.
What are the symptoms of low back pain from computer use?
There are two main signs that your low back pain is caused by computer use:
- sore and tight low back muscles due to inactivity or too much strain
- low back joint stiffness due to inactivity
How do you diagnose that low back pain is from computer use?
Usually this condition is diagnosed by taking a detailed history of your complaint. We’ll discuss both your home computer habits and your other daily activities. We'll also observe your posture, find imbalanced muscles through palpation, and perform orthopedic exams to confirm our diagnosis.
How do you treat low back pain from computer use?
The American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society recommend treatment plans with spinal manipulation, exercise therapy, massage therapy, yoga, and progressive relaxation.
At Golden Chiropractic, we may first help by adjusting the joints that aren’t moving correctly. We’ll also likely do soft tissue work around those joints. Then, we may look at your home or work postural habits and help you achieve proper ergonomics.
For longer term care and prevention, we may identify which muscles to stretch, and which to strengthen around the low back. This puts you in better balance, and can prevent the pain from happening again.
How does chiropractic treatment work on low back pain from computer use?
Chiropractic treatment works by mobilizing your joints, relaxing your tight muscles, and retraining your brain to properly keep an upright posture. It’s best for you to use your larger muscles to hold yourself up, not your smaller muscles that aren’t meant to hold your body weight against gravity.
How long will it take to stop computer-related low back pain?
Since we have to unravel the postural habits you have learned, this condition can have a slower timeline. In the first two weeks, we can get you out of acute pain and help you find ergonomic solutions. Over the next month or two, we can help you improve and retrain your posture.
What can I do at home to prevent and ease computer-related low back pain?
We recommend self-care strategies and staying active to stay out of low back pain. Here are a few ways you can do that:
Wear a smartwatch. Not only can a smartwatch help with tracking fitness and your heart health, It can also remind you when to move! Try to get up and move every 30 minutes for 30 seconds. You can stretch, get up to drink some water, go to the bathroom, or just stand tall for a bit — any movement counts. Just move every 30 minutes!
Do a body scan when you sit down at your computer. Check in from head to toe on how your body feels in space. Tuck your chin back. Do a couple shoulder rolls: up, back, and down. Hug your elbows into your side and make sure your wrists are in a neutral position. Tilt your pelvis a few times so that you end up on your sit bones. Brace your core. Lift your heels and toes a couple of times, ending up with your feet flat on the ground.
Manage pain with topicals like CBD cream or Anesthall pain relieving cream. We have a few pain management topicals in our office we could recommend for your particular pain and preferences. Feel free to contact us for recommendations.
If you’re experiencing low back pain, it’s always best to get the cause diagnosed by a professional. Book your appointment so our Aptos chiropractors can determine if your pain is caused by computer use, or something else. Once we figure out why you’re having low back pain, we’ll develop the treatment plan that is best for you.