How to manage back pain as a remote worker

You wake up in a new place or get up from a long work session and your lower back is locked down. Fast movements are not possible.
Bending over to wash your hands, picking up your bag, or tying your shoe reminds you that you might have left the office but you are still a desk worker. 

I have been dealing with back pain my whole life and after a pretty dramatic disc injury a few years ago my back needed more attention than ever. 

I rehabbed my “exploded” disc without surgery and on the way I learned a lot about how to keep our spines healthy. 

Full honesty, I still stiffen up sometimes, after long trips or when ignoring my own advice on movement snacks. But then it’s a matter of a few days before I’m back to 100% and it’s only tight, never painful anymore.

Overall my back feels better now at 36 than it did through most of my twenties and there’s nothing I don’t feel ready to do.

Short disclaimer: This is not medical advice and if you have a back injury, go see a doctor! These are just my learnings from dealing with chronic back pain and tightness, apply with care. 

Avoid the pain – Learn to brace and bend

Most importantly, don’t make the situation worse and stay out of pain.

Since the issue is most likely related to our day-to-day gollum posture, flexing the spine and rounding it forward can worsen the problem.

That is why standing up from a chair or spitting out your toothpaste often triggers more intense pain.

This is also why you should avoid stretching your lower back, especially the toe-touch-stretch. This one might feel good for a second but it poures more oil on the fire by further decreasing the stability of the painful spot. 

Learning how to stabilize the spine and bending from the hips instead of the lower back is the key to moving without worsening the injury. You can imagine this like wearing a neck brace or a shoulder sling, that keeps a certain body part stabilized to prevent further injury. 

The good news, your body has an integrated brace for your spine. It’s your core muscles and with a little bit of practice you can lock your spine down while moving, preventing further irritation. 

Move it to heal it

Putting additional stress on the hurting area is likely to make the problem worse. But moving the muscles around it as much as possible helps with the healing process and gives some immediate relief.

This should of course be done without inducing any pain, just use the range of motion that feels comfortable and work on getting the blood flowing. 

Remember, motion is lotion! 

Exercises like the cat/cow allow you to take most of the load off the spine and move it with the surrounding muscles. When you feel comfortable you can add cobras and standing back bends to your movement snack box. 

Now more than ever try to keep the stiffness out by snacking regularly.

Another excellent tool to rehabilitate your back is fast walking. 

Make sure you have some tension in your core, let your arms swing a little, and walk as if you had to be somewhere and you are a little bit late already. 

Move it to strengthen it

The stronger you are, the less pain you will be in.

That made sense to me but initially, I made a pretty common mistake when trying to fix my back issues.

My logic was that the muscles that hurt must be weak, so if I train them, everything should be better.

A lot of back extensions later I figured out what bracing means and that spine stability relies on all the core muscles working together instead of just the lower back. 

After adding bird dogs, side planks and dead bugs to my training routine I not only reduced the excessive curving of my lower back but at the same time increased my overall stability significantly. 

Walking and sitting feels less taxing, I gained more strength in my workouts and more confidence in my spontaneous movements. 


Back pain might be normal nowadays but we can manage it and reduce it’s impact on our quality of life significantly. 

Learning to control your spine mechanics, getting in the habit of snacking movements and doing the right strengthening exercises turns back issues from a constant dealbreaker to a rare nuisance.