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Back Problems Caused by Bad Posture While Sitting

author image Amber Keefer
Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.
Back Problems Caused by Bad Posture While Sitting
A young man slouching in a chair with his feet on a table. Photo Credit Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images


Although sitting puts more pressure on your back than standing does, it’s easy to get in the habit of poor sitting posture. Unfortunately, slouching in a chair or on the sofa for too long can put strain on the muscles and ligaments in your back as they become overstretched. You can help prevent many back pain problems and spare yourself some pain by practicing good sitting posture.

Muscular Back Pain

Muscle tension is often the cause of back pain. Sitting, especially for extended periods of time, causes muscles to get tired and stiff. The sitting position can also interfere with blood circulation in the lower body allowing less oxygen to get to nerve and muscle cells in the back. You are at higher risk for low back pain if you have bad posture, don’t exercise and are overweight. When muscular back pain occurs, heat and exercise can increase blood and oxygen to the area. Exercise can also help you to improve your posture. Try to distribute your weight evenly when seated and avoid slouching in your chair.

Upper Back Pain

Upper back pain is a common problem caused by poor sitting posture. To prevent putting excessive strain on the muscles of your upper back, keep your back straight with your shoulders relaxed against the back of the chair. Since sitting involves holding your body upright against gravity, you want to sit in a position that puts the least strain on the muscles supporting the spine. Place a small pillow behind your lower back to maintain the natural curve of your spine. Your feet should be flat on the floor with your knees turned slightly at a right angle. Keeping your back and neck in line with your pelvis gives your head support.

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc is a common cause of back pain, particularly if the disc was recently injured. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons explains that sitting can worsen low back pain as it increases the pressure in an area that is already weakened. Whether pain is dull or sharp, it’s important to get up, stretch and move around at least once every hour. Learning how to maintain proper posture while sitting, standing and lifting can help prevent future back problems.

Pinched Back Nerve

Although most people suffer back pain at some point, poor sitting and standing postures can cause immediate or long-term back problems. A sedentary lifestyle puts pressure on the nerve tissue of spinal bones, and can eventually cause pain. However, maintaining good sitting posture can prevent excess pressure on the spinal cord nerves, which can cause pinched nerve pain. A herniated disc in the lower spine can put pressure on a nerve root causing pain, numbness or tingling sensation.

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