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January 25, 2022

How To Sit When Your Low Back Is Hurting.

How To Sit When Your Low Back Is Hurting When your low back is hurting, sitting can be a rough proposition. This is because sitting puts a lot of pressure on your low back. Sitting incorrectly can make work or other tasks that require long periods of sitting a very painful experience. In this blog, […]

How To Sit When Your Low Back Is Hurting

When your low back is hurting, sitting can be a rough proposition. This is because sitting puts a lot of pressure on your low back. Sitting incorrectly can make work or other tasks that require long periods of sitting a very painful experience. In this blog, I want to introduce some simple tips to greatly reduce your pain from sitting.

Tip #1: Don't Sit On Your Tailbone

The bottom of your pelvis has two thickened pieces of bone that are designed to support your weight. These are called the ischial tuberosities or more commonly referred to as our "sit bones". The picture below shows these bones.

These are your sit bones!

The problem is many of us don't actually sit on our sit bones: Instead, we sit on our tailbones. Doing that puts a lot of pressure on our low back and can be a big contributor to pain when sitting and after sitting. When you slouch while sitting, you're shifting the weight off of your sit bones and back to your tailbone.

If you have low back pain when sitting, pay attention to that! Make sure to rearrange yourself. Sit up tall and find that neutral sitting position that makes you feel like your weight is resting on your sit bones. The picture below shows the right way to sit and the wrong way.

In order to find this important neutral position, sit in your chair, slouch and let your pelvis roll backwards, then roll your pelvis the opposite way by excessively arching your back. These are the two extremes. Then find the middle point between these two positions and that is your neutral. Sitting in neutral will greatly reduce low back pain.

Tip #2: Take Lots Of Sitting Breaks

The discs in your low back are under different amounts of pressure throughout the day. Some positions put minimal amounts of pressure on your discs and some put a lot of pressure on your discs.

  • When you lie flat on your back, that is one of the positions that puts the least pressure on your discs.
  • Standing puts a little more pressure on your discs.
  • Sitting puts the most pressure on your discs.
  • This is why people with low back pain struggle with sitting.

We all have to sit at some point in our lives. Some jobs require a lot of sitting. We can't avoid sitting. But we can break it up.

Research has found that taking breaks from sitting can reduce pain from sitting. That same research has found that it's the quantity of breaks that makes the most difference - not the length of the breaks. So its better to take a 10-second break every hour than to take a 30-minute break every three hours.

I recommend taking a break every 50 minutes. This break can be 10 seconds or 5 minutes.

  • Set a timer on your phone for every 50 minutes and make sure to stand up for at least 10 seconds.
  • Additionally, there is a stretch that can be great for the low back during these breaks. The video below shows this stretch. If you have time, do 10-20 of these stretches during your sitting break.

Tip #3: Use A Lumbar Support

The bones of your low back have three joints with every bone above and below them.

  • The discs are 1 joint.
  • Then there are two joints called facet joints.
  • Every lumbar vertebrae has 2 facet joints with the vertebrae above and 2 facet joints with the vertebrae below.
  • The weight of your body is split between these 3 joints.

When your low back is leaned forward, such as when you slouch, the weight is shifted forward so that your disc joints bear most of the load.

When your low back is hurting, putting most of the weight on your discs is not a good idea.

When you instead have a backwards curve in your low back, the weight is shifted backwards towards the facet joints. Creating that backwards curve as you sit can greatly reduce the pain in your low back. The picture below shows these joints.

Lumbar supports are devices used to help shift the weight more towards the facet joints so the discs are not bearing all the weight. If sitting upright and taking sitting breaks still leaves you with lots of low back pain when sitting, then you need to try adding a lumbar support.

I recommend what's called a lumbar roll. The picture below shows one of these devices. The device can be strapped to any seat, so you can take it with you from your work chair to your car and to your couch at home. The picture below shows a lumbar roll.

You want to make sure you place it correctly for it to be most effective. The video below shows how to position it on your back to get the best results.

If posture correction and breaks are not enough for you, try a lumbar roll. Make sure you use it every time you sit for 3-4 weeks and you should notice a significant decrease in your low back pain when sitting.

Get Rid of Low Back Pain from Sitting

So there you have it. 3 simple tips that will make a big difference in your low back pain when sitting.

If you want some help to make that back pain a thing of the past, come see me at Movement Laboratory at 92nd & Sheridan. Most of our low back pain patients get 80-100% improvement in their pain in just 3 weeks!

If that sounds good to you, give us a call at 918-300-4084.

Dr. John H. Keefe IV

Article written by Dr. John H. Keefe IV
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