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Lower Back Pain When Sitting: Bid Farewell to Sitting Woes

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Lower back pain may be due to bad posture, a medical condition, or an injury. Read the article to know its causes, diagnosis, and treatment.

Written by

Dr. Aparna Arun

Medically reviewed by

Mohammed Wajid

Published At September 1, 2023
Reviewed AtSeptember 1, 2023


Back pain is the most common medical problem among individuals in the world. Lower back pain is usually caused by prolonged sitting in a bad posture, minor injury, or sometimes a symptom of medical conditions. In rare cases, the cause of lower back pain is unknown. Lower back pain may occur gradually or suddenly, and the intensity of pain may vary from dull aching pain and sharp pain. Sometimes the pain may persist for longer periods.

Lower back pain may be the pain at the L1 to L5 vertebral level that comprises the part of the spinal cord at the base. The common reason for back pain while sitting is sitting in a slouched position, which strains the disc (the fluid-filled part of the spinal cord that cushions vertebrae from rubbing each other).

What Are the Causes of Lower Back Pain When Sitting?

  • Posture - Poor posture while sitting causes lower back pain. Slouched forward position and leaning too far back can cause lower back pain. Even if the lower back pain is not caused by poor posture, it will always worsen the pain.

  • Muscle Strains - A muscle strain in the lower back region is called a lumbar strain. A lumbar strain occurs when the back of the body is overstretched or twisted too much. If the person has muscle strain, the pain in the muscles extends to the buttocks but not to the legs. Muscle strain in the lower back causes stiffness, and the back will be hard to move.

  • Sciatica - The pain in the sciatic nerve is referred to as sciatica. The sciatic nerve runs down from the base of the spinal cord to the legs. The pain in the sciatic nerve can be caused by many conditions, which include bone spurs on the spinal cord. The person may experience dull aching or electric shock-like pain. Sciatic nerves are usually present only on one side of the leg. Prolonged sitting may worsen the pain.

  • Herniated Disc - If the person's disc is herniated, the first symptom they experience is lower back pain. A herniated disc is caused when the disc is pushed out from its normal position due to pressure which results in strain in the spinal cord leading to pain and numbness in the lower back region. Herniated discs are common in older individuals as it is caused by the aging process. It may also be caused by falling, incorrectly lifting objects, and repetitive movement injuries.

  • Degenerative Disc Disease - It is also called lumbar disc disease. Lumbar disc disease is when the discs between the vertebrae in the lower spine area get damaged. It is not a disease; it is a natural aging process that causes the disc to be damaged. In older people, the degeneration and injuries cause the annulus fibrosus (part of the spinal cord that holds the nucleus pulposus, which is the soft center of the disc in a place) to wear off. This worn part of the disc protrudes backward and compresses the nerve root, which results in radiating pain to the lower limbs.

  • Spinal Stenosis - The vertebrae of the spinal cord contain a hole in the middle that forms a canal through which the spinal cord runs and has nerves that are connected throughout the body and brain. When the canal is not wide enough, the spinal cord gets squeezed, resulting in pain, numbness, and weakness. This condition is called spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is caused by arthritis, tumor, infections, or injury. In some cases, the canal will be narrow from birth.

  • Spondylolisthesis - It is caused when the vertebrae of the lower spine move from their place and impinge the nearby nerve.

  • Not Being in Shape - when the core muscles of the body, such as muscles of the back, hips, buttocks, and abdomen, are weak, they do not support the spine properly, which results in lower back pain. Stretching and strengthening exercises help to ease the discomfort.

  • Other Medical Conditions - The other medical conditions that can cause lower back pain are renal stones, gallbladder stones, and in some cases, the tumor of the abdominal artery.

What Is the Best Sitting Position?

The best sitting position is described as sitting up straight with the back leaning against the back of the chair and placing the feet flat on the floor. The knees should be higher than the hips while sitting.

How Is Lower Back Pain Diagnosed?

The cause of lower back pain when sitting is diagnosed by healthcare professionals by gathering information on the medical history, duration, and location of the pain and by performing physical examinations. If the cause is not diagnosed on physical examination, doctors may recommend imaging tests.

How Is Lower Back Pain When Sitting Treated?

People usually treat lower back pain when sitting on their own with some home remedies to relieve pain. The home remedies include

  • Change of Position - The person should change their sitting position by using an ergonomically designed chair, and they should adjust the height of their screen.

  • Applying Ice Packs or Heating Pads - Applying cold packs and heating pads helps reduce the inflammation that causes lower back pain.

  • Over-The-Counter Medications - NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) reduce the discomfort caused by lower back pain.

  • Lumbar Pillows - Placing lumbar pillows or rolled-up towels under the spine will help by providing stability to the lower back.

  • Massaging - Massage on the lower back will help to relax and loosen the tight muscles that cause pain.

  • Others - Yoga, swimming, pilates, and walking may also reduce the pain caused by the lower back when sitting.

In addition, people reach out to the physiotherapist to relieve the lower back pain if the pain is severe and does not respond to any home remedies. The physical therapist may recommend some stretching exercises that include:

  • Deep lunges.

  • Sagittal core strengthening exercises.

  • Backstretch.

  • Planks.

Some doctors may recommend nerve blockers, muscle relaxants, steroid injections, antidepressants, laser therapy, and acupuncture to relieve lower back pain.


Lower back pain when sitting is the most common problem among older individuals. It can significantly impact an individual's quality of life and productivity. There are more treatment options to relieve lower back pain. However, people can also benefit from physical therapy by performing strengthening exercises. By adopting a comprehensive approach to address lower back pain, individuals can regain comfort and enhance their overall well-being.

Mohammed Wajid
Mohammed Wajid



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