Why Does My Lower Back Hurt When I Sit?

About the Author: Harminder


If you experience lower back pain while sitting, you are not alone. In fact, sitting is one of the most common causes of lower back pain. Whether you have a sedentary job that requires you to sit at a desk for hours or spend a lot of time in a car or on a plane, back pain can make it challenging to get through the day.
The good news is that there are many ways to prevent and treat lower back pain from sitting. In this article, we will explore the most common reasons why your back may hurt when you sit and offer tips on how to prevent and manage this discomfort and what may be the best overall treatment for lower back pain.

Causes of Back Pain When Sitting

1. Poor Posture

One of the most common causes of back pain when sitting is poor posture. When you slouch or hunch over, it strains the muscles and ligaments in your back, leading to pain and discomfort.
If you spend a lot of time sitting, it’s essential to pay attention to your posture. Ensure your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Your back should be straight, and your shoulders should be relaxed. You should always sit with your back against your backrest. This relaxes your lower back muscles. When you don’t use the back of your chair, you contract your lower back and psoas muscles. This causes increased compression and shear forces to your spine.
If you have trouble maintaining good posture, consider using a lumbar cushion or an ergonomic chair to help support your back. Remember, your back to maintain its natural lumbar lordosis and not have too much flexion or extension.

2. Weak Core Muscles

Another cause of back pain when sitting is weak core muscles. The core muscles in your abdomen and back play a crucial role in supporting your spine. If these muscles are weak, it can put extra pressure on your back when you sit.
Commonly, individuals that have a posterior pelvic tilt may have lower back pain when sitting. This is because their spine is too flexible and rounds, which ultimately puts increases stress and strain on the ligaments, which eventually leads to hypermobility.
To strengthen your core muscles, try strengthening your lower back and hip flexor muscles. They will help pull your back out of a posterior pelvic tilt and allow your spine to be less flexible while sitting.

3. Prolonged Sitting

Prolonged sitting is another common cause of back pain. When you sit for long periods of time, it can cause your muscles to become stiff and your joints to become immobile. This can lead to pain and discomfort in your back.
To prevent back pain from prolonged sitting, try to get up and move around every 30 minutes. Take a short walk, do some stretching exercises, or simply stand up and move around to help loosen up your muscles and joints.

4. Inactivity

Inactivity is another cause of back pain when sitting. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle and don’t get enough exercise, it can cause your muscles to become weak and stiff, leading to pain and discomfort in your back.
To prevent back pain from inactivity, get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day. This can be as simple as walking briskly or doing light strength training exercises. If you have a sedentary job, consider investing in a standing desk or taking regular breaks to move around.

5. Muscle Imbalances

Muscle imbalances can also contribute to back pain when sitting. When specific muscles are stronger than others, it can cause your body to become imbalanced, leading to pain and discomfort in your back.
To prevent muscle imbalances, it’s essential to incorporate various exercises into your routine that targets different muscle groups. If you’re not sure where to start, consider working with a physical therapist or personal trainer who can help you develop a balanced exercise routine.

6. Herniated Discs

Herniated discs can also be a contributing factor to back pain when sitting. A herniated disc occurs when one of the rubbery discs that cushion your vertebrae shifts out of place. This can cause pressure on the sciatic nerve, resulting in pain and discomfort in your lower back.

While less common, herniated discs can also cause back pain when sitting. A herniated disc occurs when the soft, gel-like center of a spinal disc pushes through a tear in the outer layer of the disc, putting pressure on the surrounding nerves and causing pain.
If you have a herniated disc, it’s essential to work with a healthcare professional to develop a treatment plan. This may include physical therapy, pain management techniques, and in severe cases, surgery. The McKenzie Method is a great approach to alleviating a herniated disc.

7. You’re Sitting in the Wrong Chair or Couch

If you slouch, hunch over, or lean to one side when you sit, it can put extra strain on your muscles and ligaments, leading to pain and stiffness. To avoid this, make sure you sit with your back straight; your shoulders relaxed, and your feet flat on the floor. Your knees should be at a 90-degree angle, and your computer or work surface should be at a comfortable height to avoid straining your neck or shoulders. If you find that you have difficulty maintaining good posture, consider investing in an ergonomic chair or a lumbar cushion to provide extra support for your back.

Say Goodbye to Lower Back Pain When Sitting

Back pain when sitting can be a frustrating and debilitating condition, but there are many things you can do to prevent and manage it. By paying attention to your posture, strengthening your core muscles, taking breaks from prolonged sitting, staying active, and addressing muscle imbalances, you can reduce your risk of back pain and improve your overall health and well-being. If you’re experiencing back pain when sitting, don’t hesitate to seek help from one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy at our physical therapy clinics in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Estero. We provide personalized advice and treatment options. With the right approach, you can return to feeling your best and enjoying your daily activities without the burden of lower back pain.


  1. “Ergonomic interventions for office workers with musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review” by Huang et al. (2020) discusses various ergonomic interventions that can reduce lower back pain in office workers, including changes to sitting posture and workstation setup:
  2. “Effect of dynamic sitting on back muscle activity during computer work in healthy individuals and patients with lower back pain” by Ryu et al. (2019) explores the potential benefits of using a dynamic sitting device to reduce lower back pain and improve muscle activity in individuals with sedentary jobs.
  3. “A systematic review of the effectiveness of exercise and physical therapy for chronic non-specific low back pain” by Qaseem et al. (2018) examines the role of physical therapy and exercise in the management of chronic lower back pain, including the use of specific activities for individuals who sit for prolonged periods.
  4. “Comparison of the effects of the different seat supports on lower back pain and trunk muscle activity in long-duration truck drivers” by Lee et al. (2016) investigates the use of different types of seat supports in long-distance truck drivers and their impact on reducing lower back pain.
  5. “Sitting and low back pain: the positive and negative effects of sitting on our spine” by Mieritz et al. (2014) provides an overview of the impact of prolonged sitting on lower back pain, including the potential adverse effects on spinal health and the importance of breaks and movement.
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