Why Does My Back Hurt When Sitting? Causes & Ways To Fix It

back pain when sitting

Are you spending your workdays shifting in your seat, attempting to escape that relentless ache in your back? If that’s the case, you’re not alone. Many individuals suffer from back pain that specifically strikes when seated, turning simple daily tasks into uncomfortable ordeals. Maybe it’s your office chair that’s the culprit, or perhaps it’s a sign of a more serious health condition. Regardless of the root cause, one thing’s for sure: it’s a problem that can’t be ignored. But worry not, this comprehensive guide will help you decode the mystery behind this discomfort. From identifying the common causes to exploring immediate relief and long-term solutions, you’ll find everything you need to turn those painful sitting hours into a pain-free experience. So, let’s delve in!

Common Causes of Back Pain While Sitting

Common Causes of Back Pain While SittingThe reasons behind back pain while sitting can be multifaceted and may differ from one individual to another. Here’s a detailed exploration of the common causes:

  • Bad Posture: Slouching or hunching over your desk forces the muscles and ligaments in your back to work harder. This unnatural alignment can cause strain and lead to chronic pain over time.
  • Poor Ergonomics: The design and arrangement of your workspace can significantly affect your back. Chairs without proper lumbar support, desks at the wrong height, and the placement of computer monitors can all contribute to discomfort.
  • Prolonged Sitting: Sitting for extended periods without regular breaks to stretch and move can lead to stiffness and tension in the back muscles, creating a cycle of pain.
  • Underlying Health Conditions: Chronic back pain might be a sign of an underlying health issue, such as herniated discs, osteoarthritis, or spinal stenosis. It’s essential to consult a healthcare provider if the pain persists or worsens over time.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: A lack of regular exercise can lead to weak and imbalanced back muscles, making them more susceptible to injury and pain when sitting.
  • Use of Inappropriate Furniture: Sitting on a chair that’s too soft, too hard, or not designed for extended use can cause misalignment and strain in the back.
  • Carrying Extra Weight: Obesity or carrying excess weight can put additional pressure on the spine, leading to discomfort when sitting.
  • Wearing High Heels: For women, wearing high heels regularly can alter the alignment of the body, putting extra stress on the lower back.
  • Emotional Stress: Sometimes, emotional or psychological stress can manifest as physical pain, including in the back.

Understanding these common causes empowers you to take control of your situation and make adjustments to your sitting habits, workspace, and lifestyle.

Symptoms and How to Recognize Sitting-Related Back Pain

Symptoms and How to Recognize Sitting-Related Back PainRecognizing the signs of sitting-related back pain is crucial to addressing the issue promptly and effectively. Here’s what you should look for:

  • Localized Pain: If the pain is concentrated in a specific area of your back, such as the lower back or between the shoulder blades, and it flares up when sitting, this could be a sign of sitting-induced strain.
  • Pain that Eases with Standing or Walking: If your pain subsides or disappears when you stand, walk, or change positions, it might be directly related to your sitting posture or the way you sit.
  • Difficulty in Rising from a Seated Position: If you find it challenging to stand up from your chair or experience pain when doing so, it might be related to how and where you’ve been sitting.
  • Stiffness and Tightness: Feeling stiff or tight in the back after prolonged sitting may indicate a lack of movement or improper posture.
  • Dull, Aching Pain: A continuous dull ache that worsens with sitting and eases with movement or lying down may be a sign of a sitting-related problem.
  • Sharp or Shooting Pain: If you experience sudden sharp or shooting pain while sitting, especially in the same position, it may be an indication of a more severe underlying condition.
  • Increased Discomfort Over Time: Notice if the pain progressively gets worse throughout the day as you continue to sit. This gradual increase in discomfort can be a telltale sign of sitting-related back pain.
  • Weakness in the Back Muscles: Feeling a lack of strength or support in the back while sitting may indicate weakened muscles due to repetitive strain.

Understanding these symptoms enables you to evaluate your situation accurately and decide whether professional medical intervention is required. If these symptoms persist or interfere with daily activities, consulting with a healthcare provider is advisable.

How Office Ergonomics Affect Your Back?

In the modern working environment, especially for those who are office workers, spending long hours seated at a desk is commonplace. Unfortunately, this daily routine can be a significant contributor to back pain if the office setup is not ergonomically designed. Here’s how various aspects of office ergonomics play a vital role in affecting your back.

Chair Design

  • Supportive Backrest: A chair without proper lumbar support can strain the lower back muscles, leading to discomfort and potential long-term problems.
  • Adjustable Height and Armrests: Ensuring that your feet rest flat on the floor and your arms are at a 90-degree angle can relieve pressure on the back. Adjustable features help tailor the chair to your unique body dimensions.
  • Cushioning: Adequate cushioning helps distribute your weight evenly, reducing pressure points and promoting comfort.

Desk Height

  • Eye Level: If the desk height forces you to look down or up at a steep angle, it can cause neck and upper back strain.
  • Leg Room: Having enough space under the desk to move your legs freely can prevent stiffness and discomfort in the lower back.
  • Reaching Distance: Keep frequently used items within a comfortable arm’s reach to prevent overstretching and strain.

Additional Considerations

  • Standing Desks: If possible, a standing desk or sit-stand workstation can allow for movement and postural changes throughout the day, helping to alleviate back strain.
  • Footrest: Utilizing a footrest when needed can assist in maintaining proper alignment and reducing lower back pressure.
  • Regular Breaks: Encourage movement by taking regular breaks to stand, stretch, and walk around. Static sitting can exacerbate back pain, while regular movement promotes circulation and muscle health.

Proper office ergonomics is not merely a matter of comfort; it’s essential for preventing back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders. By paying attention to these factors and making necessary adjustments, office workers can create a workspace that supports their well-being and minimizes the risk of sitting-induced back pain.

Immediate Relief Measures for Sitting-Induced Back Pain

Immediate Relief Measures for Sitting-Induced Back PainSitting-induced back pain can disrupt your daily life, whether you’re working at the office or relaxing at home. Fortunately, there are some immediate relief measures you can take to alleviate the discomfort. Here’s what you can do:

1. Stand Up and Stretch:
Standing up, take a step back with one leg and bend your knees slightly. Tilt your pelvis forward and feel a stretch in the front of the hip. Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch sides. Place your hands on your lower back and gently arch backward, looking up towards the ceiling. Hold for a few seconds, then return to a neutral position.

2. Adjust Your Sitting Position:
Ensure that your feet are flat on the floor and your back is aligned with the backrest of the chair. If your chair lacks proper support, a small cushion or rolled-up towel placed behind your lower back can help maintain the natural curve of your spine.

3. Utilize Over-the-Counter Treatments:
Non-prescription medications like Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen can provide temporary relief. Some over-the-counter creams and gels containing menthol or other pain-relieving substances can be applied to the affected area.

4. Apply Heat or Ice:
Applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel for 15-20 minutes can reduce inflammation and numb the pain. Also, warm bath or heating pad can relax tight muscles and improve circulation.

While these measures can provide immediate relief, it’s essential to recognize that they are temporary solutions. These immediate relief measures are a starting point, but understanding and addressing the underlying cause is crucial for long-term health and comfort.

Preventative Exercises and Posture Correction Techniques

Preventative Exercises and Posture Correction Techniques

Preventing back pain associated with sitting is far more effective than treating it once it occurs. A combination of regular exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the spine and posture correction techniques can significantly reduce the risk of developing back pain. Here’s how you can incorporate these practices into your daily routine:

Strengthening Exercises

  • Plank: Hold your body in a straight line from head to heels, resting on your elbows and toes. Engage your core muscles and hold for 20-60 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
  • Bird-Dog Exercise: Start on your hands and knees, then simultaneously extend one arm and the opposite leg. Hold for 5 seconds, then switch sides. Repeat 10 times.
  • Bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips towards the ceiling, squeezing your glutes. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower. Repeat 10 times.

Flexibility Exercises

  • Cat-Cow Stretch: Begin on your hands and knees. Arch your back like a cat and then sink your back down like a cow, moving in a slow, controlled manner. Repeat 10 times.
  • Hamstring Stretch: Sitting on the floor, stretch one leg out and reach towards your toes. Hold for 20-30 seconds, then switch sides.

Posture Correction Techniques

  • Mindful Sitting: Practice sitting with your back straight, shoulders down, and feet flat on the floor. Use a chair with proper lumbar support, or place a cushion behind your lower back.
  • Monitor Placement: Your computer screen should be at eye level to prevent neck strain. Consider using a monitor stand if needed.
  • Keyboard and Mouse Position: Keep your arms at a 90-degree angle with wrists straight. An ergonomic keyboard and mouse can help maintain this alignment.

Regular Breaks

  • Stand and Move: Make a point of standing and moving around every 30 minutes when you are sitting for prolonged periods. A brief walk or stretch can make a significant difference.

Ergonomic Work Environment

  • Invest in Ergonomic Furniture: Chairs, desks, and other office tools designed with ergonomics in mind can promote proper alignment and reduce strain.

Consult a Professional if Needed

  • Physical Therapist or Chiropractor: If you have specific concerns or need personalized guidance, consulting a professional can provide you with tailored exercises and techniques.

Incorporating these exercises and posture correction techniques into your daily routine can play a crucial role in preventing back pain associated with sitting.

Professional Medical Interventions for Persistent Back Pain

If the back pain continues despite trying preventative measures and immediate relief techniques, it may be time to seek professional medical interventions. Here’s a brief overview of the treatments available:

  • Physiotherapy: Tailored exercises and manual therapy to improve mobility and reduce pain.
  • Chiropractic Care: Spinal adjustments to align the body and relieve tension.
  • Medications: Pain relievers or muscle relaxants prescribed by a healthcare provider.
  • Injections: Corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation in the affected area.
  • Surgical Options: Minimally invasive procedures or more extensive surgeries, depending on the underlying condition.
  • Occupational Therapy: Personalized programs to improve functionality and promote a pain-free daily routine.
  • Alternative Therapies: Acupuncture, massage therapy, or other complementary treatments.
  • Consultation with a Spine Specialist: Evaluation and personalized treatment plan from an expert in spinal health.

These interventions should be considered in consultation with a healthcare provider who can diagnose the underlying cause of the pain and recommend the most appropriate treatment pathway.


Dealing with back pain, especially when it’s triggered by sitting, can be a frustrating and debilitating experience. While there are many self-care measures, exercises, and quick relief techniques available, they may not always be enough. Persistent pain requires professional attention. If you’re experiencing Back pain, physical therapy for back pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.