Sitting and Back Pain – Tips to prevent low back pain from prolonged sitting

Posted November 2, 2020

Reduce back pain

One common reason your back may hurt is from bad posture while seated. Sitting in a slouched or hunched over position can put a strain on the discs- the fluid-filled cushions that protect the vertebrae from rubbing together.

Causes of Low Back Pain When Sitting Down

*Sciatica– Sciatica refers to the pain in the sciatic nerve, which runs down the base of the spine into the back of your legs. It can be caused by various conditions including a bone spur on the spine.

Sitting for long periods of time can make it worse, but you’ll usually have it on one side.

*Herniated disc- Pain in your lower back is one of the first things you’ll experience if you have a herniated disc. Pressure on your disc has caused it to push out of its normal shape.

This puts a strain on the spinal cord and nerves in the area, causing pain and even numbness.

*Muscle Strain- A muscle strain in the lower back is also called a lumbar strain. It occurs when you overstretch or twist your back too much. While most people recover from a strain within one month, it can also become an ongoing problem if it’s due to poor sitting posture and you don’t take steps to correct it.

*Degenerative disc disease

When the discs between the bones in the lower spine are damaged, it’s called lumbar or degenerative disc disease.

Discs degenerate in older people, and injuries can cause the annulus fibrosis to tears. The annulus fibrosus is what holds the nucleus pulpous, the soft center of each disc, in place.

When this part of the disc tears, the disc can’t heal itself because it doesn’t have much blood supply. The soft material in the center may then leave its normal confines. It could protrude backward and compress a nerve root, resulting in pain that radiates down into the limbs.

Although some people who have degenerative disc disease don’t have symptoms at all, the pain can be quite severe in the lower back, buttocks, and thighs, and it may get worse when you bend or sit.

*Spinal stenosis- The bones in the spine each have a hole in the middle that form a tube through which the spinal cord runs. This connects the nerves throughout your body to your brain.

When that tube isn’t wide enough, the cord gets squeezed and can cause pain weakness, and numbness.

*Posture- Bad posture while either sitting or standing can contribute to low back pain. Slouching forward too much or leaning too far back can cause problems. Even if your back pain isn’t caused by poor posture, it can be made worse by it.

*Being out of shape- Your core muscles include the ones on your sides and in your back, hips, abdomen, and buttocks. If these are weak they may not be supporting your spine well enough, leading to pain. Stretching and aerobic exercise can go a long way toward helping strengthen your core.

What Can I do About My Lower Back Pain Since I Sit Often?

1. Better Posture

Sitting in one position too long isn’t healthy. Doing it with your back rounded forward, slumped to one side, or leaning too far back can put stress on parts of your spine for an extended period.  TO help you sit straighter, position your body along an imaginary straight line extending the length of your back, out of your head and up to the ceiling. Keep your shoulders level and don’t let your pelvis rotate forward, If you sit up perfectly straight, you’ll feel the small of your back stretch and lengthen.

2. Avoid Sitting When Possible

Dr. Tennyson Lee, OISI’s Pain Management Specialist, says “Sitting puts the most pressure on your lower back compared to standing and lying down. If you have to sit, take breaks often to stand up and stretch your back and legs. If you do a lot of desk work, think of getting a sit-stand desk.”

3. Stop Smoking

We already know that smoking can cause quite a bit of a problem for our health, but did you know that it prevents the back from healing the normal daily wear and tear? Dr. Lee says that smoking will increase your risk of back pain and back surgery by 10 times.

4. Try a Rocking Chair

Dr. Lee says the rocking chair is your friend. “If you have to sit, try to choose a rocking chair. The rocking chair is motion in action. And we know that ‘motion is lotion’ for the back, hips, knees, etc. Motion prevents arthritis stiffness and muscle tightness,” says Dr. Lee.

5. Bend Backward 10 Minutes a Day

You can do this by laying on your stomach and curving upward (Cobra pose in yoga). “You don’t have to go very far in the beginning,” says Dr. Lee. You may only be able to lie on your stomach in the very beginning. Just stop before it hurts you. While standing, you can also put your hands behind you on your buttocks and bend backward a little to preserve your back bending motion.”

6. Medical Treatment

Our doctors here at The Orthopaedic Institute of Southern IL may also recommend the following treatments for lower back pain:

physical therapy- which helps build up muscle strength to support your back.
nerve blockers and steroid injections for pain relief
acupuncture and dry needling which may relieve pain without surgery
medications such as muscle relaxers, antidepressants, and other analgesics.

7. Change Your Position

Take frequent breaks, move around.

8. Apply Ice or Heat

Cold helps reduce inflammation and heat promotes healing by bringing blood back to your back.

9. Use a Support

Placing a rolled-up towel or special lumbar pillow at the base of your spine while sitting will help you remember to sit up straight and provide you with some stability.

10. Get a massage or consider yoga

Yoga is known for its ability to stretch and strengthen the body. Many programs for modification of the poses as needed.


When to see us

While lower back pain usually clears up with exercise and better sitting posture, you should make an appointment with us if:

* The pain is persistent and doesn’t seem to be getting better
* You have tingling or numbness in your back or legs
* You have a fever
* You’re unusually weak
* You lose bladder or bowel function
* You’re losing weight.

Make an appointment with us today
CALL 618.997.6800

COVID-19 Precautions

We at Orthopaedic Institute of Southern Illinois are committed to continuing to provide the highest quality and safest orthopaedic care to the people of Southern Illinois.

In the interest of protecting our patients and employees, we have instituted the following procedures:

In following the CDC guidelines, while inside our facilities, all employees, patients, and visitors over the age of 2 will be required to wear a mask at all times when not actively eating or drinking.

With the exception of a single parent accompanying a minor or a designated caregiver accompanying an impaired adult, we will limiting the number of visitors accompanying patients to ensure safe social distancing wtihin our facilities. .

At this time, we will continue to provide full physician services in the office as well as physical and occupational therapy, imaging, pain management, and walkin clinic services for your immediate, acute orthopaedic needs.

We are working closely with our hospital partners for the continued provision of urgent and emergent orthopaedic care.

Please remember to stay calm, stay smart, and if you are feeling ill, stay home.

Thank you,
The Physicians and Staff of Orthopaedic Institute of Southern Illinois.