Sitting back pain is a common complaint for truly vast numbers of chronic lower back pain patients, including this author. Many lumbar conditions are aggravated by long periods of seated posture. However, humans have been sitting for relaxation and work for countless generations.
Why are we suddenly suffering so much from a position that seems so natural for our backs? Many doctors speculate that sitting compresses nerves or places inordinate stress on the lumbar or lumbosacral regions. This is certainly true to some degree, but the purely structural model of back pain has failed many times. Therefore, there may be other possible causes of seated back ache to consider, as well, before jumping to any premature conclusions.
A herniated disc or other spinal problem can be painful when sitting. Sitting drastically increases the pressure in our lower backs. This increased stress can cause pain in any weakened area. If a disc is pressing into a nerve, sitting can possibly increase the force applied and the symptoms created.
Patients have been warned over and over that sitting is bad for their lower back. This psychological suggestion has permeated deeply into our collective minds. We expect pain from sitting and so we experience it. This is yet another example of the nocebo effect.
Many people sit the most at work. People with work-related stress will be prone to experience psychological back pain when performing in the work environment. If you must sit, then sitting is likely to be the time of pain if you have underlying psychological issues at work.
Driving back pain caused by muscle tension and stress is one of the most common forms of ongoing syndromes. Driving puts a person in a static position while experiencing a heightened state of awareness and back muscle tension. Driving requires constant vigilance which can create the perfect scenario for muscular pain. Once again, many patients experience this while at work more than in other driving situations.
The seated position is not good for lower body circulation. Oxygen deprivation back pain is often experienced by those patients who are predisposed to suffer from this type of syndrome. The actual cause of this condition can be physical or psychological.
Here are some common sense suggestions for simple back ache associated with long periods of sitting:
Do not sit for a long time without getting up to stretch occasionally. Sitting, like any posture, will wear on our bodies after an extended period of time. Muscles get acclimated to being in a certain position and can begin to feel tired and stiff.
Keep moving around at least once an hour to avoid creating a potential muscular back pain condition.
Sit in a comfortable chair. Find a chair that works best for your needs. You may want to look into chairs specifically designed back pain. There are several varieties of specialty chairs, including kneeling chairs, that may be able to help you to find greater comfort when you need to sit.
Vary your seated position. Distribute weight evenly and do not slouch. Keep your work station set up to prevent you from having to reach too far while sitting. An ergonomic work station can prevent many back pain problems from occurring.
Seated back pain was a personal nightmare of mine for 18 years and has become so once again. Sitting was almost always the position that caused me the most pain. I travel extensively to Asia and endure up to 30 hours of plane time each way. When my back was bad, this was always a trial for me. I spent hours walking and standing on these long haul flights. I also had to drive many miles for my job. I often needed to spend all day in the car with little of no rest from driving. I was in a world of hurt because of my chronic lumbar back pain.
For a few years, I was fortunate to enjoy some time when my back was completely healed. In those years, I could sit with no discomfort. I was so happy to be free from the constant burden of seated suffering. I could work with a clear mind, instead of having half my brain focused on my pain. Travel became a pure pleasure, rather than a chore. Sitting back pain is certainly possible to overcome, since I did it. By the way, during this time of relief, I still had 2 herniated discs in my lower back, L4/L5 and L5/S1. These are the typical discs that seem to cause seated back pain for the majority of patients.
Fast forward several years and I really could not sit comfortably at all once again. I stood to work at my computer, which made my legs incredibly weak and numb after a time. I put my legs up and sat on my hip to watch an hour of TV at night. I could do a movie once a week, but it was often a struggle for either my neck or my low back. Getting older really can be tough on the body, especially with the 12 herniated discs and other issues of which I am now aware reside in my spine!
I was fortunate to overcome this pain a second time and have used the knowledge gained to help others to recover, as well. Learn more about how conditioning and fear play roles in sitting back pain. I cover these topics in great detail in my Power of Fear, Neuroplasticity and Chronic Pain and Cure Back Pain Forever books as part of our proprietary pain relief program.