Lower Back Pain from Office Environments? This is why!

It seems to be the norm these days with an increasing workforce of sedentary office workers and those constantly in vehicles, there are an abundant number of individuals living with lower back and hip pain without a mechanism of injury. But I have “perfect posture” why is sitting at a desk causing my back or hip pain? Well it might be a combination of factors including weakness, posture, incorrect workstation set up and muscular imbalances caused by adaptive shortening.

So, what is adaptive shortening? This is where muscle resting length changes over a period of time, from habitual positioning of the limbs or trunk. This means that the neurological signals going to and from the muscle tells the brain that the muscle is much shorter than it is, therefore the muscles’ active range of movement is reduced.

Let’s put this in perspective, a muscle that believes it is short will only activate in a shortened range. For example, the action of the iliopsoas muscle is to flex the hip and if the iliopsoas is shortened then your hip will naturally want to be flexed position. Now if you stand up this muscle should relax to a natural resting length, so the hips can extend and flex through a normal walking gait. If your resting length is shortened then your body will be in competition between the agonists and the antagonist muscles to work efficiently, which may lead to muscular pain, exhaustion, guarding and anterior pelvic tilting.

How do you avoid Adaptive Shortening? There are some very simple ways to reduce effects experienced by adaptive shortening. Taking regular postural breaks that includes getting up regularly from your desk, or performing light stretches are simple ways to reduce the impacts. If a sit to stand desk is available, then changing your working station throughout the day may benefit you. Exercising regularly and ensuring good functional strength and movement patterns would be the overall most effective way to combat adaptive shortening.

Do some of these symptoms sound familiar? Then there are several things that you can do to help. By booking an appointment with an Exercise Physiologist from Absolute Balance, we can help to work with you to find the cause of your back, neck or shoulder pain. From there we can prescribe a specific exercise programme to help with any shortening or muscular imbalances issues you may have. Keep a look out on Absolute Balance’s YouTube channel for a short video with some simple stretches and strengthening exercises for iliopsoas related shortening.


Jordan M Woods

(B.Sc. Exercise, Sport Science, and Rehabilitation, GradDipSc.

Exercise Physiology Rehabilitation)


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