Say Goodbye to Lower Back and Hip Pain When Sitting: How to Create an Ergonomic Home Office Setup
Whether you work from home or in an office, desk jobs that require sitting for extended periods can cause lower back and hip pain. Luckily, home office ergonomics can help to prevent or minimize these unwanted symptoms during your work day.
Although there are a few different things you can do during your work day to alleviate your hip pain when sitting, one of the best ways to find relief is to invest in your home office ergonomics.
Having an ergonomic home office setup has a few basic principles, but the end result may vary for everyone. Perfecting your personal workspace and home office ergonomics helps you to create a productive office environment - boosting your productivity while also improving your overall health.
Many companies and office spaces dedicate time and money to set up ergonomic environments for their employees to work from. However, recent times have forced many workers to work from home for longer than anticipated.
Some workers may be returning to offices, while others are experiencing a long term switch to remote working. This means it’s past time to overhaul their home office ergonomics.
If you’re reading this, then you are probably looking for ways to minimize lower back and hip pain while sitting with the help of home office ergonomics. In this article, I will be going over how sitting all day can cause hip pain, as well as how to create an ergonomic home office setup that fits your needs.
What causes lower back and hip pain when sitting?
How you sit, and how long you sit, can affect your body in serious ways. Staying in any one position too long will have an impact on your body, whether you are sitting or standing.
When you sit for too long, you can easily start to develop lower back pain and hip pain. Many people also experience piriformis pain while sitting. This is a muscle in the back of your hip in the gluteal region.
So how can sitting cause hip pain, and how might that pain spread to your piriformis muscles or lower back?
While it may seem like you are in a relaxed position when you are seated, your hip flexor muscles are actually engaged the entire time. These muscles are made up of two separate muscles: the iliacus and psoas.
These two muscles (known together as the iliopsoas) are what stabilize you when you do almost everything. We most often think of their engagement during flexion activities like running or lunging, but they are also at work when we sit.
When you are in a seated position, your iliacus is what holds your pelvis in line with your thigh bone and the psoas is what is holding your spine in place so you can sit up straight.
When you slouch, your iliopsoas does get a little bit of a break, but that should not be an excuse to slouch. Slouching or improper posture can still cause you upper back and neck pain.
Not only are your hip flexors engaged when sitting, but they are in a shortened position. Staying in this shortened position while being contracted for long periods of time can cause muscle knots and immense amounts of tension.
This muscle tension is what eventually causes you hip pain when sitting. Over time, you may start to experience hip pain when standing up from sitting or hip pain during your other daily activities.
Lower back and piriformis pain when sitting are often associated with tight hip flexors as well. As the iliopsoas muscles tighten, they impact the other muscles around them and they can even pull your pelvis out of alignment over time creating more issues.
The piriformis and the iliacus in particular play tug-of-war with each other. If one of them is tight, you can expect the other one to be too tight also. All of these connections create a bit of a domino effect, making your home office ergonomics even more important.
How to create an ergonomic home office setup
The basics of home office ergonomics will help you give your workstation an upgrade. The main aspects include having the correct chair height, good posture and sitting positions, and computer or equipment spacing and height.
With the right setup, and ability to make adjustments throughout the day, you can begin to manage and potentially alleviate your hip pain while sitting through home office ergonomics.
But before we talk about equipment you can purchase for your home office ergonomics, let’s discuss how you can optimize something you already have on hand - yourself!
Focus on proper sitting positions and posture
The way you sit while you work is a big part of your home office ergonomics. Some people prefer using a standing desk, but for both sitting and standing while working, maintaining the correct sitting posture is important.
If you haven’t invested in an office chair, try to base your choice off of optimizing your home office ergonomics. So, choose a setup that sets you up for the following posture:
- Sit all the way back in your chair.
- Keep your body in alignment - specifically, keep your head over your shoulders, and in line with your spine and hips.
- Tuck your elbows close to your body and keep them bent at a 90-degree angle. Your arms should hang below your shoulders, and your elbows shouldn’t be jammed up against your body either.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed. This should happen naturally if your elbows are aligned properly.
- Have your feet flat on the floor so your legs can comfortably rest at a 90-degree angle.
When you are standing, focus on keeping your body in alignment and not putting too much weight on one side of your body. Leaning to one side puts more strain on that side of your body and puts your entire body out of alignment.
If you cannot find a chair that allows your feet to sit flat on the floor comfortably while achieving the other posture aspects, then you may need to find a stool or a solid surface to support your feet.
Even when you are sitting with good posture, your hip flexors are fully contracted and this is still putting them in that shortened position.
So what should you do?
There are a few ways you can sit, and knowing the best sitting position for hip pain may help alleviate some of your discomfort if you choose to sit while you work. The sitting positions good for hip pain are also often good if you experience lower back or piriformis pain when sitting.
Other home office ergonomics tips
To help your body easily and comfortably stay in a proper position while you work, the office setup needs to fit you. Once you have the right office equipment, your seated or standing position will come naturally.
Home office ergonomics you need to adjust may include:
Your office chair:
Remember that you want to keep your back against the chair you sit in while you work. Not only that, but your office chair needs to support your spinal curves.
It is nice if the chair is adjustable, especially if you have an adjustable desk. This is primarily so you can find the proper height to have your feet flat on the floor and aligned with the desk height.
Having a chair with armrests is helpful so your shoulders can be even more relaxed while you are using the keyboard and to keep your elbows at a 90-degree angle.
Your keyboard and mouse:
Both your keyboard and mouse should be on the same surface. If the top of the desk allows you to use them while keeping your arms in the most ergonomic position, then that will work. Otherwise, you may need to find a desk with a keyboard drawer to allow for this.
When using the keyboard, your wrists should be straight, so the size of the keyboard will also matter to keep your arms and wrists aligned.
Your computer monitor:
Your computer monitor should be directly in front of you and about an arms distance away from you.
To get the screen height correct so you can keep your head and neck in alignment, the screen should be at or just below your eye level. You may need to lower and adjust the height if you wear bifocals or have other vision issues.
If you use a laptop, your setup will need to be a bit different. The primary concern with the laptop should be if it requires you to look down to work.
You want to keep your head and neck in alignment with your spine and above your shoulders, so to do this, you will need to elevate your laptop in some way.
An easy fix for this might be to stack books, but they do also make adjustable platforms for ergonomic laptop setups which often create a more stable and comfortable position.
This positioning with a laptop will not allow you to have the proper arm and elbow alignment, but you can invest in a separate keyboard if this becomes a concern.
The height of your desk is important, especially in comparison to the chair you choose. You need to make sure that there is enough clearance under the desk for your legs.
Having both an adjustable desk and chair is ideal, but if just one is adjustable you can easily make adjustments to ensure your desk’s height will suit your needs.
A desk that can be both a seated and standing desk is one of the best home office ergonomics hacks I know. That’s because it gives you the option to change your body positioning and your muscles are less likely to tighten and tense if you can move around more during your work day.
When home office ergonomics aren’t enough
Even with the right home office ergonomics, sitting for extended periods of time during the day can lead to tight muscles and hip pain when sitting. That’s why a combination of good home office ergonomics and healthy routines - including muscle release - is encouraged.
What do I mean by a muscle release routine?
When your muscles are tight and start to form muscle knots, that’s when they start to cause pain. For your hip flexor muscles, when they get too tight and form muscle knots, they also start pulling on neighboring muscles and can even pull your pelvis out of alignment completely.
This leads to a chain of issues that impact your posture and many other aspects of your body movement. Stretching and massages may help alleviate some of this pain, but only for a short time.
The only way to truly address your tight iliopsoas muscles is to apply prolonged pressure. This gets tricky because of where both the iliacus and the psoas are located.
Since the iliacus muscle in particular tends to cause the most issues in this case, I will focus on how you can easily perform a pressure release of this muscle. The iliacus is really close to your hip joint and is located on the inside of your pelvis.
Usually, you can only release this muscle with the help of a physical therapist. If you are dealing with a tight iliopsoas though, you need to release these muscles daily, not just every few weeks.
That’s why I invented the Hip Hook.
The unique design of the Hip Hook gives you the ability to apply prolonged pressure to your iliacus muscle at home. With the help of the Hip Hook, you can easily build an at home routine that addresses your hip pain when sitting.
Go beyond home office ergonomics and take control of your low back, hip, and piriformis pain when sitting.
All you need is 10 minutes after work or before bed to benefit from using the Hip Hook. As you get used to it, using it daily should become a part of your routine, especially if you do sit most of the day.
With the Hip Hook, proper alignment, and the best home office ergonomics - you’ll be well on your way to happy, healthy hips.
Frequently asked questions about creating an ergonomic home office setup
What are the three areas of ergonomics?
The International Ergonomics Association separates ergonomics into three categories: physical, cognitive, and organizational. All three of these can be applied to your office workspace in various ways.
What defines an ergonomic workspace?
When designing your workspace to optimize ergonomics, consider the following:
- Ease of use
These ergonomic principles can provide a general baseline for designing an ergonomic workspace, but home office ergonomics are most effective when you tailor your workspace for your specific needs.
These needs will include your posture while you work at your computer, the height of your chair to optimize body alignment, and even desk organization to minimize stress.
How do I know if I have poor office ergonomics?
You will know you have poor office ergonomics if you experience any type of muscle fatigue, strain, or imbalance during or after your day at work. You may feel pain in your hips, neck, back, wrists, etc. releasing these muscle knots by applying direct, prolonged pressure can provide relief.