Are you wondering about the best way to sit with lower back pain?
According to statistics, back pain is one of the most common causes for seeking medical attention, so you're not the only one whose back hurts when sitting.
Fortunately, I'm here to give you several valuable tips on how to sit to manage lower back discomfort and prevent future back problems.
Just keep reading.
- Maintaining a proper posture while sitting for prolonged periods of time, especially for men, is vital for preventing lower back pain and ensuring proper back supports for men.
- Using a backrest recline of 100-110 degrees is one of the best ways to sit with lower back pain.
- An active lifestyle can prevent lower back pain and maintain a healthy weight.
Is There a Link Between Sitting and Lower Back Pain?
You'd think that something as natural as sitting can't cause back problems. But spending too much time in a seated position can lead to lower back pain.
So, before getting to the best way to sit to avoid back pain, let's talk about the link between sitting and lower back discomfort.
The spine has a natural curve, which ensures even body weight distribution and flexibility. However, studies show that the physiological curve of the spine changes in an upright sitting position. (1)
This change puts extra pressure on the lumbar spine, especially if you tend to slouch or slump when sitting for prolonged periods.
The more pressure on the spine, the more likely it is to overstretch the spinal muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Over time, poor posture can even lead to spinal structure damage.
Moreover, specialists from OINJ explain, "By also sitting for too long, the discs in your vertebrae might start losing their cushioning." (2)
That's bad because these discs absorb shock, prevent the vertebrae from rubbing together, and allow the spinal nerves to exit the intervertebral foramen.
When the spinal discs lose their cushioning, you risk lower back pain caused by degenerative disc disease, herniated disc, or sciatica.
So, what's the best way to sit to avoid lower back discomfort? Let's find out!
What Is the Best Way to Sit with Lower Back Pain?
In general, sitting for extended periods causes not only back pain but also puts you at risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Unfortunately, it's not easy to avoid when you have a sedentary job.
The good news is that you can minimize the risk of lower back pain when sitting with the right posture. But which posture is the best?
The best way to sit for people with lower back pain is upright on a chair with lumbar support at the back and shoulders relaxed to keep the natural spine alignment and lessen stress.
It's vital to avoid sitting for prolonged periods without support because this position stresses your hip and back muscles, increasing the risk of muscle fatigue and pain.
Unfortunately, most chairs don't offer the necessary level of spine support, so you should consider using lumbar support for the back.
Lumbar support is any device (lower back brace, lumbar pillow, rolls, etc.) that fills the gap between your spine and the backrest, providing stability.
Besides adequate spine support, you should pay attention to the position of your legs.
Studies show that sitting with your knees at a 90-degree angle puts less pressure on the back and shoulder muscles than other seated positions. (3)
But what about leaning backward? Is it good or bad for your spine? Let's find out!
Additionally, don't miss our insightful articles on 'Mid Back Pain When Breathing: Causes and Remedies' and 'The Role of Ergonomics in Preventing Back Pain' for a comprehensive approach to managing and preventing back discomfort.
Should You Lean Backward When Sitting?
Interestingly, one study from 2006 determined that the least straining position for the body was when the thigh-body angle was 135 degrees, not 90. (4)
But leaning back on your chair's backrest can put the lumbar spine and neck under pressure, making your pain worse. And it's not a practical position for working.
So, you should strive to sit in an upright position and recline your backrest to 135 degrees when taking a break to lessen the spine pressure.
But what's the worst position to maintain when sitting for prolonged periods of time? Make a guess!
What's the Worst Way to Sit with Lower Back Pain?
The worst way to sit is by hunching forward because this position compresses the spinal cord, puts the spine under tremendous stress, and tires the muscles.
Check this video to see how to sit to avoid posture and spine problems.
Unfortunately, hunching in front of your desk or computer is a common bad habit. And it's hard to break because you often slump forward without realizing it!
When I started having back problems, learning how to sit properly was the hardest challenge. But I managed to deal with the discomfort with the handy tips below!
10 Tips on How to Sit with Lower Back Pain
Lower back discomfort can be due to simple muscle strain and poor posture, but it can also signal an underlying medical condition, such as spinal stenosis, herniated disc, etc.
So, you must consult your health provider before trying these tips, especially if you have other symptoms, such as leg weakness, numbness, or tingling.
#1 Maintain the Right Backrest Angle
While reclining your backrest to 135 degrees is not practical, you should aim for 100-110 degrees. This angle helps distribute body weight evenly and reduces spine pressure.
Avoid traditional chairs with fixed backrests because they can cause spinal misalignments in the long run. Get an ergonomic chair to adjust the angle to match your spine, if possible.
#2 Keep Feet Flat
Usually, when I sit in front of my computer, I cross my legs. I'm sure that many of my readers do the same. But to avoid lower back discomfort, you must keep your feet flat on the ground.
Your body should be in a neutral position while sitting to keep the spine pressure as low as possible and maintain good blood circulation. And you can't achieve that with crossed legs.
Crossing your leg can hinder the blood circulation in your legs, leading to vein inflammation. It also puts pressure on your sciatic nerve, hips, and piriformis muscles, contributing to pain.
According to studies, crossing your legs at the knees can also raise your blood pressure! So, avoid this bad posture as much as possible. (5)
I recommend using footrests to keep your feet in a comfortable position and prevent you from crossing them.
#3 Avoid Twisting and Overstretching
Think about how you have organized your desk. Do you have to twist or overstretch to reach your documents, keyboard, or mouse? Then, it's time to reorganize your work zone.
Frequent stretching strains your shoulder muscles and puts extra pressure on your spine because you're leaning forward.
Twisting your waist to reach objects also puts your spine in an awkward position, so it's easy to pull a muscle or damage a ligament, especially if you already have back problems.
Ensure that everything you need is within reach so you don't have to overstretch. And when you need to grab something out of reach, turn the office chair along with your entire body.
#4 Use Those Armrests
Armrests can take some of the body pressure off your spine, so you should use them to lessen the strain on your spine and avoid back pain.
Moreover, placing your arms on the rests makes it less likely for you to slump when typing or working, which is vital for maintaining a healthy posture.
#5 Use a Lumbar Support Device
Lumbar rolls, lumbar support pillows, and braces are an excellent way to stabilize the spine, support it, and maintain its natural alignment.
To determine if you need extra lumbar support, check whether there is a sizable gap when sitting in your office chair with your hips pressed to the backrest.
I recommend trying Stot Sports' lumbar support brace because it has a removable pad to customize the support. It's also practical for sciatic pain, herniated discs, and muscle strains.
#6 Switch Sitting Positions
While the best way to sit with lower back pain is upright, you can try alternating sitting positions to give your spine a break. Here are the most suitable ones:
- Reclined sitting. It features a backward-angled trunk with the upper body supported by the backrest. It can reduce back fatigue without putting pressure on the spine.
- Declined sitting. In this position, your knees are lower than your pelvis, tilting the pelvis to straighten the spine. Check this video for the difference between tradition and declined sitting.
- Standing position. Alternating between sitting and standing is an excellent way to decrease lower back pain, increase blood circulation, and reduce muscle fatigue.
- Supine sitting. In this position, you're lying almost horizontally. While this pose puts the least pressure on your spine, getting a supine workstation is expensive.
#7 Learn How to Stand Up
If you suffer from lower back discomfort, it's essential to stand in a way that doesn't make the pain in your lumbar region worse. Here's what to do:
- Scoot your bottom to the edge of your seat.
- Keep your feet flat on the ground.
- Place your arms on the armrests.
- Lean forward and push down through your arms to get up.
- Straighten your legs as you raise from the chair, and ensure you don't bend your waist.
#8 Do Exercise
While physical activity is the last thing on your mind when you have back pain, it's vital to stay active and do exercises to maintain and strengthen your back muscles.
Studies also show regular exercise can prevent back pain or reduce its severity. Moreover, staying active is beneficial for your mood and mental health. (6)
So, consider yoga for lower back pain, aerobic exercises, simple stretches, or physical therapy. However, consult your health provider if you experience sharp pain or your condition worsens.
#9 Explore Therapy Options
Ice or heat therapy is also an excellent way to get pain relief from lower back pain. Ice is best for acute injuries and inflammation, while heat works great for muscle soreness.
I've got a lumbar pillow with built-in heat, which is great when I don't have time to stand and exercise my muscles.
#10 Maintain Healthy Lifestyle
A sedentary lifestyle puts you at risk of obesity. That's terrible news because being overweight makes it more likely to develop various health conditions, including back problems.
The heavier you are, the more pressure your spine has to bear. So, it's easier to damage your back when you twist or overstretch.
Stay as active as possible and eat a balanced diet to reduce inflammation. Avoid as much as possible caffeine, processed foods, alcohol, sugary drinks, fast food, and refined carbohydrates.
Also, you can talk to your health provider about supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D. They can help prevent spine bone mass.
When To Seek Medical Attention for Lower Back Pain?
Usually, lower back pain gets better with a few days of rest. However, you should seek medical care if your condition doesn't improve within two weeks or you have additional symptoms, such as:
- Severe pain that prevents you from your usual activities
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Arm or leg weakness, tingling, and numbness
- Unexplained weight loss
1. Is it better to sit or lie down with lower back pain?
You should lie down when you have an acute episode of back pain. But you should try to regain your ability to stand and move as soon as possible.
2. Why is lower back pain worse when sitting?
Lower back pain can worsen with sitting because your posture strains your discs, preventing the vertebrae from rubbing together.
3. What should you not do with lower back pain?
If you have lower back pain, avoid sitting for prolonged periods, lifting heavy objects, bending, scooping, or high-impact exercises.
Maintaining a neutral spine position is vital for reducing lower back pain and preventing problems from bad posture.
So, remember that the best way to sit is upright with your feet flat on the ground. And you should be careful when standing up to avoid twisting or overstretching your back muscles.
What do you think about this topic? According to you, what is the best way to sit with lower back pain? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
1. Wen L, Lin X, Li C, Zhao Y, Yu Z, Han X. Sagittal imbalance of the spine is associated with poor sitting posture among primary and secondary school students in China: a cross-sectional study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2022;23.
2. Back Pain From Sitting | Possible Reasons and Treatments | The Orthopedic Institute of NJ [Internet]. orthopedicnj.com. Available from: https://orthopedicnj.com/news/back-pain-from-sitting
3. Cho IY, Park SY, Park JH, Kim TK, Jung TW, Lee HM. The Effect of Standing and Different Sitting Positions on Lumbar Lordosis: Radiographic Study of 30 Healthy Volunteers. Asian Spine Journal. 2015;9:762.
4. Thigh-body angle [Internet]. Salli satulatuolit. [cited 2023 Dec 1]. Available from: https://salli.com/en/benefits-of-salli/studies-and-articles-on-sitting/thigh-body-angle/
5. Pinar R, Ataalkin S, Watson R. The effect of crossing legs on blood pressure in hypertensive patients. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 2010;19:1284–8.
6. Rapaport L. Exercise may help prevent low back pain or make it less severe. Reuters [Internet]. 2017 Nov 9 [cited 2023 Dec 1]; Available from: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-fitness-back-pain/exercise-may-help-prevent-low-back-pain-or-make-it-less-severe-idUSKBN1D92KK