10/08/2016 2:15 PM AEST | Updated 11/08/2016 9:25 AM AEST

Everyday Actions That Could Be Causing You Back Pain

It pretty much all starts at the office.

Paul Bradbury
Posture, posture, posture.

Surely it's happened to all of us. You wake up one morning and almost immediately realise something is not quite right with your neck or back. Maybe you can't look to your left, or perhaps you're just feeling achy all over... whatever the case, it's not good.

But before assuming you've slept in a weird position or that your new pillow is entirely to blame, physiotherapist Ben Liddy of Central Physio & Performance Fitness says the problem could track back way further than last night's sleep.

In fact, your 'sudden' bad back could be the result of days, months or even years of continued stress -- especially if you work full-time in an office environment.


"The majority of our clientele -- we're based in the [Sydney] city area -- are office workers who are spending 40 hours plus per week glued in front of a computer screen, sitting at a desk," Liddy told The Huffington Post Australia.

"Most of the problems we see are a result of not just one thing, but an accumulation of stress.

"Something we see all the time is when someone comes in complaining they have woken up one morning and can't move their head or it hurts to turn to the right or left. They automatically assume 'it must have been the way I slept' but once we delve into their history, it becomes pretty clear pretty quickly that they spend most of their time sitting at computer with rounded shoulders.

"Over time, this has gradually overloaded those structures in the neck and it starts to break down. The bad's night sleep is just the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak, or the last piece of a the puzzle that contributes to them waking up in pain."

According to Liddy, there's "no one posture" that results in back or neck pain, but sustained postures which, over time, can become a primary cause of physical issues.

"Any prolonged static position will lead to adapted changes which will put stress on one part of the body," Liddy said.

Marcelo Santos
Sore back? It could be your computer's fault.

While there's probably not much you can do in terms of the nature of your work, Liddy says even taking simple measures such as regularly getting up and about can reduce the pressure on your neck and back.

"First off and foremost, you want to be taking regular breaks from your desk," Liddy said. "Get up, have a walk around, do something which takes your body out of that sustained position.

"You may also want to look at getting an ergonomic assessment done. One of the big issues is computer monitors not being at the right level, where you are forced to look a bit down or a bit up in order to do your work. There can also be contributing factors such as how far your monitor is away from you, your chair set up, the height of the desk, whether you have to reach for things... Small things that in isolated movements or a repeated task can, over time, end up becoming the primary source of the pain."

Getty Images
Yet another excuse to hit the gym.

According to Liddy, you may also benefit from hitting the gym from time to time (dammit, another reason not to cancel that membership).

"There's a lot of research to suggest our core muscles switch off in response to pain, unless you retrain them to work properly," he said. "So it can help to turn your core on and off. That's something you can actually do at your desk to help those muscles fire back up again and help to stabilise that area a little bit better.

"Generally, people doing things away from work whereby they are getting active, lifting weights or getting stronger -- all of that will positively affect them when they are at work.

"All the general benefits we get from a gym -- like increased muscle strength and endurance -- make us better able to withstand the stress we impose on our bodies each day."

Wavebreakmedia Ltd
If the pain persists, you might need to see a health professional.

If you find you're often falling victim to neck and/or back pain, Liddy recommends seeking professional advice from a physiotherapist. For those who can't make an appointment straight away, he says a trigger point ball can assist in getting through the day.

"It can be a life saver in terms of reducing the symptoms enough to allow you to function properly," Liddy said. "For those with back pain, sitting on a ball and really getting it into their glutes can free them up a lot, because of the attachments [the glutes have] to the spine.

"For those with neck pain, get the ball, put it into the side of a door and imagine you are packing a scrum. Really digging it into the neck area can provide relief, but I wouldn't say it's a long-term solution.

"If there is muscular and joint involvement, sometimes there is going to be irritation and the patient could potentially benefit from going on anti-inflammatory medication," Liddy continued. "Whether that's appropriate for them is up to a health professional, but sometimes someone's pain is so bad the primary focus is to treat the pain, get over that initial speed bump, and then seek more long-term treatments after that."