Chronic Back Pain Due To Sitting

If you sit for long periods of time and suffer from chronic back pain, chances are good that poor posture is to blame. Many lower back problems can be traced to not only sitting in one position for too long, but also sitting in a way that puts too much pressure on the spine or curves the spine incorrectly.

Whether you suffer from acute lower back pain or chronic back pain, there are many reasons for this pain. Before your next appointment with your physician, take note of how long you sit—at your desk or on the sofa—without a break, and what your posture is like as you sit. This will help your physician determine what tests to administer to diagnose the source of your back pain. 

Public Enemy #1

Most of us spend a great deal of time at work and that work usually involves sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen. Unfortunately most people don’t take sufficient time away from the sitting position, sitting sometimes 3 or 4 hours at a time, which can put strain on the lumbar region of the back. What compounds this chronic back pain however is poor chair and desk ergonomics.

By utilizing ergonomically correct desk chairs, keyboards and other desk equipment you can minimize back pain throughout the day. Taking regular breaks every 60 to 90 minutes will prevent your back muscles from getting used to an uncomfortable position. Take a walk to the water cooler, just stand up and walk around or take time to stretch for 5 to 10 minutes. Most adults begin to feel pain in the lower back after approximately one hour, which is why your back needs regular breaks from one position.

Since most adults spend most of the day sitting at a desk this is the most common culprit for chronic back pain, but not the only. Truck drivers and traveling salesman can attest to the fact that extended periods of driving can wreak as much havoc on the lower back as sitting at a desk. The stiff position of the body—grasping the wheel and using the leg and foot to operate the break and accelerator—can put great strain on the muscles in the lower back.

Long flights have also been known to cause back pain, especially when confined to the small and uncomfortable seats found on most economy flights.


Oxygen deprivation, also referred to as ischemia, has also been known to cause lower back pain in some patients. Patients who are predisposed to ischemia and experience poor blood circulation due to long periods of sitting, back muscles are more likely to spasm. If you already suffer from back pain, ischemia can occur when the blood circulation to the affected area is cut off.

Ischemia often occurs due to underlying physical or mental problems, which again is why it is so important to be checked out by a doctor.

Prevent Back Pain

There are several easy to use techniques that alleviate, relieve and prevent lower back pain due to sitting.

Even though sitting at a desk or in a car cannot be avoided, how you sit can be helped. Correcting your posture so that no undue strain is being placed upon the lower back can relieve the pressure on the spine. Proper posture can also prevent your spine from curving abnormally, which can exacerbate existing back pain.

When you sit you should be sitting with your back straight so that it maintains the typical ‘S’ curve of the spine. Your shoulders should be squared and pushed slightly back. An ergonomic desk chair can help maintain proper posture, while an ergonomic keyboard will make sure your body is a position that places the least amount of pressure on your back.

Set up your desk so that all essential tools and equipment are within comfortable reach as overextension is yet another cause of chronic back pain. You shouldn’t have to reach to the point of pain to reach your mouse or cup of pens. An ergonomically set up work station can greatly reduce lower back pain.

When we sit for too long, the muscles in the back become accustomed to being in an incorrect position so you don’t immediately feel the pain. When you finally get up or switch positions, then the back pain becomes apparent. Back cushions like the Back Joy Core and Freedom Back can help reduce the pressure placed on the back while you sit. 

Filed Under: Back Pain
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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2 thoughts on “Chronic Back Pain Due To Sitting”

  1. Candace says:

    Thanks for the article. Please clarify, Inc the section about Ischemia, you mentioned that ischemia is brought on be physical or mental factors. What mental factors contribute to ischemia?

    1. steve says:

      Candace, There is a term called Tension myositis syndrome you can read about it here:



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