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Home > Dealing with Back Pain While Sitting: Causes and Solutions

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Dealing with Back Pain While Sitting: Causes and Solutions


Last Updated on September 25, 2023

In today’s fast-paced world, where many professions demand long hours of desk work, back pain has emerged as a common complaint. The seemingly innocuous act of sitting can often be the underlying cause of debilitating lower left back pain and discomfort when sitting straight. This comprehensive article explores the multifaceted issue of sitting-related back pain, offering insights into its causes, symptoms, prevention strategies, and effective solutions. 

Understanding Back Pain When Sitting 

Sitting—the seemingly mundane action that is deeply integrated into modern lifestyles—can lead to a myriad of discomforts, particularly in the back. While the human body is designed for movement, the sedentary nature of many jobs and activities can contribute to various forms of back pain. This section delves into the nuances of back pain that arises while sitting, shedding light on its diverse manifestations and the impact of prolonged sitting on the spine. 

Common Causes of Sitting-Related Back Pain 

Back pain is a complex and diverse phenomenon, often presenting itself in various forms depending on individual circumstances and underlying causes. Understanding the nuances of these different types of sitting-related back pain is essential for accurate diagnosis and effective management. Here, we delve into the distinct sensations individuals might experience while sitting, ranging from persistent dull aches to sharp, shooting pains.  

Nerve Compression  

Sciatica: Sciatica is a condition characterised by the compression of the sciatic nerve, typically occurring due to prolonged sitting. It manifests as sharp shooting pain that radiates down one leg, often accompanied by numbness or tingling sensations. 


Spinal Stenosis: Spinal stenosis is a situation where the spinal canal narrows, putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. Prolonged sitting, especially with poor posture, can worsen this condition, resulting in aching pain, numbness, or weakness in the lower back and legs. 



Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a condition characterised by the gradual breakdown of spinal discs and joint cartilage, respectively. Prolonged sitting exacerbates these conditions, leading to chronic, dull pain and stiffness in the lower back. 

Herniated Disc: Herniated disc refers to a spinal condition where the soft inner core of a spinal disc pushes through the tougher outer layer. When aggravated by prolonged sitting, it can cause localised sharp pain at the site of the herniation, sometimes with pain radiating down the leg. 



Muscle Strain: Muscle strain occurs when the muscles in the back are overused or overexerted due to prolonged sitting with improper posture. It typically results in a general sense of muscle soreness and fatigue in the back. 

Poor Posture: Poor posture when sitting can cause strain on the muscles and lead to back pain. It involves slouching, rounding the shoulders, or sitting with an arched back, resulting in a dull, aching pain in the back due to improper spine alignment. 

Weak Muscles: Not being in good physical shape can contribute to back pain during sitting. Weak back muscles and inadequate core support can lead to generalized discomfort or soreness in the back, especially during prolonged periods of sitting. 

Recognising and understanding these diverse manifestations of sitting-related back pain can empower individuals to seek appropriate care and make informed decisions about managing their discomfort. It’s important to note that each person’s experience can vary, and consulting a Pain Doctor for accurate diagnosis and personalised guidance is crucial. 


Common Causes of Back Pain When Sitting 

While sitting-induced back pain might seem like a mystery, it often stems from a combination of factors that influence the body’s mechanics and alignment. In this section, we dissect the primary culprits behind sitting-related back pain, focusing on poor posture, ergonomic shortcomings in chair and desk setup, and the role of muscular imbalances and weaknesses. 

Poor Posture

The significance of maintaining proper posture cannot be overstated. Yet, the allure of slouching or hunching over devices can lead to dire consequences for the back. Poor posture disrupts the spine’s natural alignment, leading to strain on muscles and ligaments.  

Over time, this strain can escalate into chronic discomfort. In this segment, we delve into the intricacies of posture-related back pain and the imperative of adopting ergonomic sitting habits. 

Ergonomics Chair and Desk Setup 

Ergonomics—a term frequently heard but not always fully understood—plays a pivotal role in back health. The design of your workspace, particularly the chair and desk setup, significantly influences your sitting posture. An ill-fitting chair or an improperly adjusted desk height can contribute to back pain and discomfort. 

Muscular Imbalances and Weakness 

A balanced musculature is essential for optimal body mechanics. Muscular imbalances, often resulting from prolonged sitting and a lack of regular exercise, can lead to abnormal forces acting on the spine.  

Weak core muscles, in particular, fail to provide adequate support to the spine, leaving it vulnerable to strain and pain. 

Signs and Symptoms of Sitting-Related Back Pain 

Recognising the subtle cues that your body provides is essential for addressing sitting-related back pain before it escalates into a chronic issue. This section sheds light on the signs and symptoms that indicate your discomfort might be linked to your sitting habits. 

Recognising the Discomfort 

Back pain is far from uniform, encompassing a range of sensations. Some individuals may experience a persistent, dull ache that seems to intensify with prolonged sitting. Others might encounter sharp, shooting pains that can be triggered by specific movements.  

Understanding the nature of your pain—whether it’s localised or radiates—can aid in pinpointing the underlying causes and determining appropriate management strategies. 

How Sitting Can Aggravate Existing Back Conditions 

For individuals with pre-existing back conditions, such as herniated discs or spinal stenosis, sitting for extended periods can exacerbate their discomfort. Understanding how sitting impacts these conditions is crucial for making informed decisions about your sitting habits. 


Strategies for Preventing and Alleviating Back Pain While Sitting 

Addressing sitting-related back pain requires a multifaceted approach. From optimising your workspace to incorporating regular movement into your routine, this section offers practical strategies for preventing and alleviating discomfort. 

Ergonomic Seating Solutions 

Investing in an ergonomic chair can be a game-changer for your back health. These chairs are designed to support your natural spinal curvature, distribute weight evenly, and promote good posture. Exploring the features of ergonomic chairs and selecting the right one for your needs can significantly contribute to a pain-free sitting experience. 

Choosing the Right Chair : Not all chairs are created equal, and your choice of seating can make a substantial difference in your comfort. Factors such as lumbar support, adjustability, and cushioning play pivotal roles in ensuring that your chair provides optimal support.  

Lumbar Support and Cushions: For those seeking extra support, lumbar cushions can provide targeted relief to the lower back. These portable accessories can be used on various seating surfaces to maintain the natural curvature of the spine. If your chair lacks this feature, use a cushion or a small rolled-up towel to provide that support.  

Proper Desk and Monitor Height: An improperly adjusted desk and monitor can lead to strained neck and back muscles. Ensuring that your desk and monitor are positioned at the appropriate heights can help maintain good posture and reduce the risk of discomfort.  

The height and alignment of your computer screen significantly impact your sitting posture. Ensure that your screen is at eye level, reducing the need to tilt your head up or down. This helps maintain a neutral neck position, preventing strain on your cervical spine.  

Stretching and Strengthening Exercises for Sitting Professionals 

Exercise is a powerful tool for combating sitting-related back pain. Incorporating stretches and strengthening exercises into your daily routine can counteract the effects of prolonged sitting, promoting flexibility and muscle balance. This section presents a selection of exercises designed to target the muscles that are most affected by prolonged sitting. 

Exercises to Counteract Prolonged Sitting 

Sitting for extended periods can lead to muscle tightness and discomfort. To mitigate these issues and maintain your muscle health, consider incorporating the following exercises into your daily routine, even while at your desk: 

Seated Marching: 

  • While seated, lift your knees one at a time, as if you’re marching in place. 
  • This exercise engages your leg muscles and improves blood flow. 

Seated Torso Twists: 

  • Sit with your feet flat on the ground and your hands on your chair’s armrests. 
  • Gently twist your torso to one side, hold for a few seconds, and then twist to the other side. 
  • This exercise helps relieve tension in your lower back and sides. 

Abdominal Contractions: 

  • While sitting, engage your abdominal muscles by pulling your navel toward your spine and holding for a few seconds. 
  • Release and repeat this exercise several times to strengthen your core. 

Incorporate these desk-friendly exercises into your daily routine to combat the negative effects of prolonged sitting. Remember to take short breaks to perform these exercises and improve your overall muscle health and comfort. 

Frequent Breaks and Movement 

The human body thrives on movement. Incorporating regular breaks into your sitting routine allows your muscles to relax and your spine to decompress. Whether it’s a short walk, gentle stretches, or standing for a few minutes, these breaks can make a world of difference in preventing and alleviating back pain. 

Mindful Breaks: Even with impeccable posture, prolonged sitting can still take a toll. Set reminders to stand up, stretch, and walk around for a few minutes every hour. These mindful breaks not only relieve pressure on your spine but also rejuvenate your mind and boost productivity. 

Alignment for Better Posture 

The foundation of mindful sitting lies in aligning your body properly. Begin by positioning your hips at the back of the chair, ensuring your spine maintains its natural curvature. Align your ears with your shoulders, and imagine a gentle string pulling the crown of your head upward. This alignment not only supports your back but also opens up your chest, facilitating easier breathing and enhancing your overall posture. 

Grounded Feet :Your feet are the foundation of your seated posture. Keep them flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Distributing your weight evenly across both feet helps in maintaining balance and prevents undue pressure on specific areas. If your feet don’t comfortably touch the floor, consider using a footrest to provide adequate support. 

Elongate Your Spine: Imagine your spine as a stack of coins, each coin representing a vertebra. Visualize each coin gently lifting and separating, creating space between them. This elongation minimises compression and stress on the intervertebral discs, reducing the likelihood of back pain. 

Dynamic Sitting: Mindful sitting isn’t static; it involves subtle movements that prevent stiffness. Engage your core muscles to provide stability, allowing small shifts in your position. Periodically roll your shoulders back and down, releasing any tension in your upper back and neck. 

Incorporating these posture tips into your daily routine can create a positive impact on your overall well-being. The synergy of physical alignment, movement, and mental presence fosters a healthier relationship with your body and surroundings. Remember, mindful sitting is a practice, and with time, it becomes second nature, resulting in improved posture, reduced discomfort, and a more vibrant life. 

When to Seek Professional Help for Sitting-Related Back Pain 

While many instances of sitting-related back pain can be managed with self-care strategies, there are times when seeking professional help is crucial for effective treatment.  

When Is It More Than Just Sitting Discomfort? 

Persistent or worsening back pain that lasts for more than three months should raise concerns. If your discomfort is accompanied by other symptoms such as numbness, weakness in the legs, or difficulty controlling your bladder or bowel, it’s essential to consult a Pain Doctor promptly. These could be indications of underlying issues that require medical attention. 

Coping with Back Pain When Sitting 

Addressing sitting-related back pain often involves a combination of self-care techniques, medical interventions, and lifestyle adjustments. This section explores the array of options available for managing and alleviating discomfort. 

Home Remedies and Self-Care Techniques 

Several simple yet effective home remedies can provide relief from sitting-related back pain. Applying heat or cold packs, practicing gentle stretches, and maintaining good posture are among the strategies you can employ to manage discomfort in the comfort of your home. 

Medications and Pain Management 

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can offer temporary relief from back pain. If NSAIDs fail to effectively alleviate the pain, you may explore minimally invasive treatment options to address your discomfort. 

Specialised Injections – Myospan 

Specialised Injections – Myospan such as Coreflex injection or Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Therapy are used to treat common pain conditions precisely targeting muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, and nerves. These procedures aim to disrupt the cycle of pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance the healing process. Utilising specialised needles, these treatments reach the source of pain or its generator without resorting to open surgery or painkillers. These injections have no downtime and can be conveniently administered in a doctor’s clinic, requiring only a few minutes. 

Minimally Invasive Procedures – Neurospan 

Neurospan is used to address pain stemming from spinal issues, focusing on the fundamental sources of discomfort, which may encompass conditions such as slipped discs, bone spurs, and nerve compressions. The primary objective is to stabilise the vertebral bones and spinal joints while alleviating pressure on the spinal nerves responsible for pain and inflammation. In contrast to traditional open surgery, these minimally invasive spine procedures involve shorter recovery periods and pose lower risks. Click here to read more on our treatment.  

Read more on about our minimally invasive procedures. 


Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation 

Pairing minimally invasive treatments with physical therapy can provide comprehensive care for individuals dealing with pain and mobility issues.  Minimally invasive procedures can provide immediate pain relief, while physical therapy empowers individuals to regain strength, prevent future issues, and maintain a pain-free life. This symbiotic approach ensures a well-rounded, long-term solution to sitting-related back pain. Incorporating these two facets into your pain management plan can help you minimise discomfort, improve mobility, and rediscover a life free from the constraints of back pain.  


Conclusion: Taking Control of Your Sitting-Related Back Pain 

Sitting-related back pain might be a common woe, but it’s not an inevitability. Armed with knowledge about its causes, symptoms, and effective solutions, you can reclaim control over your comfort and well-being. By prioritizing posture, incorporating movement, and seeking professional guidance when necessary, you can pave the way to a pain-free sitting experience. Remember, your back health is in your hands, and making proactive choices today can lead to a healthier and more comfortable tomorrow.

Categories: Neck & Back Pain
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