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How to Deal with Lower Back Pain When Sitting

by Jessica Hegg August 13, 2019 0 Comments

Woman sitting properly

Long-term sitting is one of the biggest causes of back pain and threats to the lower back, placing extra strain on the lower vertebrae. Luckily, to treat lower back pain when sitting, there is a wide variety of different treatments, stretches, and tips that can make things easier. Take a look at our guide and learn how to manage back pain when sitting.

What Causes Lower Back Pain When Sitting

There are many different factors that may be contributing to your lower back pain when seated. Keep reading to learn the most common ones and what changes you can make to reduce the discomfort.

Existing Conditions

One of the most dramatic causes of lower back pain when sitting are existing conditions. If you suffer from any of the following back conditions, be sure to talk to your doctor for advice on proper sitting posture.

  • Sciatica

    The radiating pain common in sciatica can affect the back, buttocks, hip, and lower extremities. It can be mild or severe and usually affects one side of the body.

  • Herniated disc

    Herniated discs are caused by gradual wear and tear on the back and can lead to a pinched nerve. Pain and numbness are common, especially when sitting.

  • Muscle Strains

    Strained back muscles are one of the most common types of muscle strain and lead to pain, swelling, and muscle spasms.

  • Spinal Stenosis

    Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spine that puts pressure on nerves and causes pain. The condition develops over time from changes in the spine related to osteoarthritis.

  • Degenerative Disc Disease

    The loss of cushioning between vertebrae may lead to lowered flexibility and pain while sitting. Degenerative disc disease is age-related and results from wear and tear on the back.

Poor Sitting Posture

Our sitting posture plays a major role in the development of persistent lower back pain. When we stay in the same sitting position for several hours at a time the lower back can become stressed, leading to lasting symptoms. Long-term poor posture can cause the natural curve of the spine to become deformed, leading to chronic back pain. Remember these 5 factors for good sitting posture:

1. Rolled or Hunched Shoulders

It’s common to slouch while sitting, and while it may feel comfortable in the short-term, slouching places extra pressure on the spine, leading to herniated discs, sciatica, and other types of back pain. Be sure to sit upright, with your back firmly against the back of your chair for support.

2. Looking Down too Much

Our necks are made to stay flexible, allowing us to look, up, down, and side to side easily. However, keeping the neck bent for extended periods can cause pain and stiffness over time. Try to keep your neck in a neutral and relaxed position while sitting.

3. Elbows Placed too Far From Body

Straining arms and elbows while sitting can place additional stress on the back, causing pain over time. Keep your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle when sitting, with wrists straight in front.

4. Leaning too Far Forward

Leaning forward in your chair can throw off your center of mass, forcing your lower back muscles to support additional weight. The most comfortable position for back muscles and vertebrae is sitting fully upright, with the back of the chair supporting some of your weight.

5. Crossing Your Arms, Knees, or Ankles

Crossing limbs and joints for extended periods can have a range of negative health effects, like impeding blood flow or straining joints. When sitting for long periods, its best to keep feet flat on the floor, and arms at your sides.

Poor Office Ergonomics

Often overlooked, the ergonomics or layout of a person’s workspace can contribute to back pain. Poor ergonomics leads to repetitive strain injuries and pain in the upper back, middle back, and lower back.

  • Monitor Height

To ergonomically optimize your desk, adjust your computer screen so that it is directly in front of you and at eye level.

  • Mouse and Keyboard Position

Consider the position of the mouse and keyboard and aim to keep your wrists in a neutral position.

  • Unsupportive Seating

Not all seats are good for the lower back. If you suffer from low back pain, try using a lumbar support pillow to encourage the natural curve of the spine. Using a supportive seat cushion is another way to offset the risk of back pain when sitting by properly positioning your spine and distributing weight effectively.

Being Overweight or Out of Shape

Carrying excess weight places additional stress on the back, and can even tilt it over time. This can lead to a range of long-term health conditions like sciatica and herniated discs. If you carry extra weight, weight loss and strengthening the back muscles is one healthy way to prevent lower back pain, helping to properly support to the lower back while sitting and standing.

How You're Holding Your Phone

Holding your phone to your ear requires flexing the arm and shoulder muscles can actually have an impact on the lower back, and cause lasting pain over long periods. Be sure to take breaks or switch hands during long calls, or try using a headset or speakerphone when possible.

Tips to Reduce Lower Back Pain When Sitting

If your job or regular day to day activities require long periods of sitting, there are some steps you can take to prevent, manage and reduce lower back pain.

Use a Standing Desk

You may also want to consider using a standing desk or an ergonomic chair to encourage proper posture and better back health

Take Regular Short Breaks from Sitting

Every 30 to 60 minutes, stand up — even if only for a minute or two. This reduces tension in the lower back and boosts blood flow to the area.

Stretch and Exercise Regularly

Stretching and exercising on a daily basis can help counteract the negative effects on the heart (and general health) of prolonged periods of sitting, according to some research. You can further improve the health of your back by trying exercises and stretches that specifically target the lower back and core. However, those with severe back pain may need to attend physical therapy, where they can get a tailor-made exercise plan.

    Use Heat and Ice

    Back pain resulting from poor posture while seated may respond well to either hot or cold therapy. Apply either heat or ice (or a combination) to areas of tension and discomfort after a long day at the office.

    • Try using a gel pack wrap that secures around your back for convenient, hands-free hot or cold therapy.
    • A heating pad is a quick way to soothe back pain when sitting. Four heat settings allows you to customize your relief.

    While both agents can help provide relief, ice and heat should only be applied at certain times. To learn when it’s best to use ice and when it’s best to use heat for your lower back pain, check out our complete article below.

      Massage Therapy

      Take time to massage tight areas as soon as you notice them. If you don’t, this muscular tension could cause imbalances in the body, leading to poor posture and worsening back pain. There are many methods of massage therapy, whether professional or self-massage, that can increase blood flow, remove muscle knots, and loosen up stiff muscles.

      One of the easiest ways to get self-massage at home, is to use a foam roller . It is lightweight and portable, and can be used anywhere on your body. Learn all about foam rolling for lower back pain here: How to Use a Foam Roller for Lower Back Pain

      Wear a Back Brace or Posture Corrector

      Prevention is one of the best ways to manage lower back pain, and back braces make this easy. Simply attach around your waist for added support, and protection against daily strains that can weaken your back muscles and vertebrae. Our posture corrector is another good option that promotes good posture for long-term back health.

      Improve Your Driving Posture

      When driving, be sure to maintain good posture. Adjust your seat so that your back is firmly against the back of the seat, your head is in the center of the headrest, and you do not need to lean forward to reach the wheel or pedals. A lumbar roll or seat cushion is also a great addition to help properly position and align your spine. 

      When to Seek Professional Help

      If your back pain is severe or does not improve with home care strategies, then you may need to seek medical advice. See a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. They may recommend medication for pain relief, medical therapies, or other interventions. Other back pain specialists that may be able to help include a chiropractor and a physical therapist.





      Jessica Hegg
      Jessica Hegg

      Jessica Hegg is the content manager and at ViveHealth.com. With vast product knowledge and understanding of individual needs, she aims to share valuable information on making smart buying choices, overcoming obstacles and overall improving the quality of life for others. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle.

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