Whether you're back in the office enjoying some of the small pre-covid delights (attending real-life meetings, watching the office dog do cute stuff, celebrating your colleague's birthday with a Woolies mud cake), or still WFH in your fave trackies, jumper and high-bun combo, there's one teeny little thing that always manages to stay constant: Your crippling lower back pain.
Because sitting on a chair for up to nine hours a day can do things to you.
Listen to Mamamia's podcast for your face, You Beauty, where Kelly recommends a pore treatment she uses on her back. Yes, her back. Post continues below.
We spoke to Scott Coleman, founder and CEO of Preventure to find out more about lower back pain, including the most common causes and how we can fix it. Coleman is also a qualified physio and has worked with Australia's top athletes at the AIS and Athletics Australia - so he has quite a few feelings about back pain.
Why do I have back pain?
So, what's the go? Why do we feel like we're creeping up on our 87th birthday? "According to the Australian Institute of Health and Wealthfare, 70 to 90 per cent of Australians will experience back pain at some point in their lives." Yep. That's a helluva lotta sore backs getting around.
Coleman said that while it is super common to experience back pain, apparently not all back pain is the same. "The source of this pain can be physical (coming from ligaments, joints and muscles), or it can be psycho-social (due to stress and the brain mis-reading messages from the muscles and nerves in the back)."
Anyone else thinking theirs could be to do with the latter? 'Cause same.
"Unfortunately, during these difficult COVID times we not only have some people working longer hours with changing work routines, increasing physical back pain, but we also have a lot of people experiencing stress-related back pain."
According to Coleman, many of us may have spent a lot of time finding the right at-home work station (read: balancing your laptop on top of the ironing board) and have now gone back to an "office set-up that is 'one size fits all' - which is likely to cause pain."
What am I doing wrong?
"There are a lot of myths around the cause of back pain," says Coleman. "The old label of a 'slipped disc' due to heavy lifting or too much bending is not always the cause of back pain. Yes, overloading the back through lifting or bending is a common cause of back pain, however back pain can also occur from a lack of movement or under-loading."
"The joints of the spine need to move to maintain function. When joints are not being used, they become stiff and painful and the muscles around them become weak and tight which can also lead to pain. And then there's stress, which can increase the tension in the back muscles causing pain regardless of whether there has been overload or under-load."
This is all starting to feel VERY close to home.
How much of it is to do with my posture?
Okay, here's the super interesting bit. While a lot of back pain is due to posture, Coleman said it's not necessarily 'bad posture' that causes back pain. The commonly accepted idea of sitting up straight in your chair to avoid back pain isn't necessarily correct.