Quitting Sitting: A back pain diary

A week-long habit-changing experiment that cut my pain in half (and more)

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Photo by Hadis Safari on Unsplash

Backstory — literally and figuratively

Prior to the onset of pain, I was enjoying the healthiest year of my life. I’d lost more than ten pounds. At the age of 46, I was running farther and faster than I’d ever run. But then, around the time of my 48th birthday, sciatica — something I’d experienced my whole life but never been worried about — became chronic.

Scared Upright: Going to the gym won’t save you

Half-way through my experiment, I need some motivation to keep up with this crazy experiment. Fear will do the trick.

Four months later

I put off publishing this article right away, not wanting to make claims — even based on a purely personal experience — before allowing the passage of time to add insight. Between July and November, here’s what’s happened.

Continuing experimentation

It’s also possible that my continuing improvement over the last few months is partially attributable to other interventions. Following the no-sitting week, I experimented with at least ten: everything from freezing cold showers to wearing a back brace (neither of which had much effect) to doing qi-gong.

If you try only five things

  • Audit your sitting. You probably sit more than you think.
  • Set a timer or app so that you move, stretch and twist on a regular basis (preferably every ten minutes or so, but at least once every thirty minutes), whether you are standing or sitting.
  • Avoid crunches and purely abdominal exercises. Isolated exercises aren’t the way to develop overall core strength.
  • Reject the suspect notion that exercise offsets daily sedentary behavior.
  • Shake up your routines for a week at a time and keep notes on what works. Yoga works for one person but not for others. You may have a unique trigger — like bad exercise form or a problematic driving position unique to your own lifestyle.

Written by

Book coach and author of PLUM RAINS, set in Tokyo 2029 and Taiwan 1930s, and BEHAVE, a novel about 1920s psychology scandals. www.romanolax.com

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