Sitting Too Much? The Science of Chairs, Back Pain & Health

Sitting improperly causes back pain issues

For many, sitting is pretty common. Your job might require you to sit for long hours or you might like to relax and unwind in front of the TV for a bit. While sitting itself isn’t harmful, extended periods of time doing so can be. Because of this, sitting has often been referred to as being the new smoking because it can cause significant health problems. Below you’ll find more information about why sitting can be troublesome and how sometimes the chairs you sit in could contribute to your back pain and overall health. 

Back pain caused by sitting affects your musculoskeletal system. This system is made up of your entire skeleton, tissues, muscles, cartilage, ligaments, and joints which are all connected together. Because they are interconnected, when you sit for a long period of time, it can cause strain around your spine. This can result in not only back pain, but other health issues as well, such as tension and blood circulation issues. 

Why is Sitting Considered Bad?

Sitting is a common thing to do, but too much of it can be a problem. In fact, sitting for long amounts of time can lead to many different health concerns. These include:

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Fatigue
  • Slower metabolism
  • Depression
  • Chronic pain

Your risk for these health concerns increases with the extended amount of time you sit per day. 

Why Sitting Causes Back Pain

Sitting causes back pain for many reasons. Below are some of the most common causes. 

Poor Posture

One of the main reasons why sitting causes back pain is because of poor posture. When sitting in a chair, most people often slouch or tilt their head down to look at their smart devices. Poor posture also causes your body to strain certain muscles which can hurt your neck and spine.

Your Elbows Are Too Far Apart

Another reason why sitting causes this issue is because your elbows might be too far apart. Believe it or not, when sitting, if your elbows are placed in various positions that are far away from your body, it can cause strain. This can eventually make your neck, shoulders, and upper back hurt.

You Put More Tension On One Side of Your Body

Sometimes, when sitting, you might be putting more tension on one side of your body. This could be due to you leaning on one side more often than the other. You might also cause tension in your back and shoulders if you talk on the phone when sitting. This is because many tend to place their phone between their ear and shoulder so they can multitask when working. 

Problems Chairs Can Cause to Your Back

While some chairs are designed to help prevent and eliminate back pain, not all do. Most chairs are designed just to hold your body rather than support it. Many chairs, such as those in an office, can press on your lower back. This ends up putting pressure on your spine which can lead to not only back pain, but slipped discs and tension as well. 

Some chair designs can cause back issues

Lumbar Support: Why It’s Necessary

Lumbar support is crucial when it comes to sitting in a chair. Without it, the chair won’t support your back. This eventually can lead to severe back pain. 

Some benefits that come with using lumbar support include:

  • Preventing back pain
  • Improving your posture
  • Your shoulders and hips are kept in alignment
  • It helps to relax tense muscles

A chair with lumbar support will have a special backing. This backing curves slightly which works to keep your spine aligned. This is because it supports your body?s lordotic curve, the delicate part of your spine that curves toward your stomach. By doing so, lumbar support keeps your lower back aligned without adding extra pressure or strain to it. It can also prevent the development of lumbar lordosis which causes the muscles in this area to weaken. 

However, sometimes you can create your own lumbar support system. This can involve you placing a pillow or rolled-up towel between your chair and lower back. Sometimes there are also portable lumbar support devices, such as cushions, you can carry around with you. 

Ways to Relieve Back Pain

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can help heal your back pain. Below are some to consider. 

Try Medications

There are hundreds of medications available to help relieve you from back pain. Some of the most popular are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), particularly ibuprofen. Ibuprofen works to stop inflammation in your body which is a common cause of back pain. Other options include naproxen sodium, Tylenol, tramadol, and aspirin. Corticosteroids can also be prescribed in the case of bad inflammation.


As mentioned above, ibuprofen is one of the best ways to relieve back pain. This is because it directly targets inflammation. Various studies have been done which show that NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, can help to relieve various symptoms of back pain instantly.?

Naproxen Sodium

Also known as Aleve and Mediproxen, naproxen sodium is used to help treat both fevers and pain as it works to reduce inflammation and swelling. This medication can also treat stiffness which is yet another common symptom of back pain. 


Tylenol is good to use for back pain and is often recommended for those who have a sensitive stomach. However, it doesn’t tend to be as powerful as NSAIDs as a few medical studies have shown. In fact, one study done by The Lancet showed that those using medications such as Tylenol took as much time to heal from their back pain as those who took the placebo.


Tramadol is designed to help treat pain. While it acts like an opioid, if taken in moderation, it can be helpful with reducing severe pain. However, it doesn’t necessarily work at treating inflammation, but rather hides the pain caused by it. 


Aspirin is yet another popular NSAID to take for back pain. It reduces both inflammation and pain although it needs to be taken regularly for best results. 

Visit a Chiropractor

A chiropractor for back pain might be of use to you. They work on contorting the body in such a way that provides not only relief from your pain, but can prevent your back pain from occurring again. These chiropractic manipulations help to reduce inflammation in the body while also encouraging endorphins to be released. In addition to this, many have also found that chiropractic care not only reduced their pain, but improved their flexibility as well. Due to this, it’s often a helpful method to use for back pain sufferers.

Check Your Diet

Sometimes your diet could be what causes back pain. If you tend to eat foods high in sugars, it can lead to weight gain. This can contribute to back pain as it creates inflammation in your body. Because of this, it’s a good idea to check your diet and add some anti-inflammatory items to it. Some to consider are:

  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Turmeric
  • Berries
  • Broccoli
  • Avocadoes

In order to reduce sugar intake, artificial sweeteners are a healthier choice. All of these can work together to help fight inflammation while also keeping your body healthy. Many can also safely be taken with medications if you prefer to use both of these back pain-fighting methods together.  

Use Lumbar Support with Your Chair

As mentioned earlier in this article, lumbar support in a chair is crucial when it comes to preventing back pain when sitting. It will help to keep your spine aligned while also providing comfort when you sit. This system is recommended especially for those who tend to sit for long periods of time. There are various ways you can use lumbar support, either with a chair that features it or with a special lumbar support cushion. 

Try Stretching

Another way to help treat back pain is to stretch. While you don’t have to do intense yoga movements, simply moving your body around a little bit can help to reduce back pain. Some stretches to consider include:

  • Lying on the floor and pulling your legs up to your chest
  • Sitting with your arms extended and carefully moving your body from left to right
  • Kneeling on the floor and extending your arms forward on the ground

While there are plenty of other stretches to try out, these are some of the best to consider for quick relief. Better yet, you can consume back pain medications safely and then stretch for extra relief. 

Take Breaks From Sitting

Another method to try is to take breaks from sitting. Ideally, you should get up and move around every 30 minutes. This can help to stop strain on your spine and also encourage better blood flow. You could also try standing when doing activities. Standing has been shown to have many health benefits besides preventing back pain, such as stopping obesity, lowering your blood sugar, and even boosting your productivity. 

Back pain caused by sitting is a very common problem. It’s usually due to you sitting for long periods of time or using an incorrect type of chair. To help prevent back pain from occurring, definitely make sure to keep the above information in mind. By doing things such as using medications or taking a trip to the chiropractor, you can be sure that your back pain will start to significantly decrease. 


Laskowski, E. R. (n.d.). What are the risks of sitting too much? Retrieved from

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