Your Spine and Sitting: How To Prevent Back Pain from Sitting

Spine and sitting
Your Spine and Sitting: How To Prevent Back Pain from Sitting

You might have heard the saying: “If you rest, you rust!”

However, bad posture is no joke.

Moreover, it can make you less productive and more likely to get sick.

Believe it or not, some doctors think that sitting might be as bad for your health as smoking. 

While being glued to your computer all day is unavoidable, you may add more exercise to your day by practicing correct posture or investing in a standing desk. 

Keep reading to learn more about the “sitting sickness” and how you can have a healthier spine!

Can You Actually Sit Too Much?

Can you sit too much?

Weirdly enough, yes! 

According to health surveys, up to 70% of adults spend at least six hours a day sitting. (1

The fact is, people like to sit, whether it’s after a long day at work, being a couch potato in front of the TV, or sitting during your daily commute, it’s a sedentary life.

A sedentary lifestyle has been shown to boost the risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and several cancers.

Even among otherwise healthy individuals, a 2015 study discovered a link between extended sitting and a higher chance of early death. (2

With that said, exercise can help reverse some of the negative health effects of sitting. 

According to a study from The Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, adding two minutes of moderate exercise to every hour spent sitting can cut your risk of mortality in half. (4)

How Sitting Affects Your Back and Neck

How do you feel after a long day of sitting at your desk?

Spending the majority of your day sitting can cause soreness, stiffness, and discomfort in your spine. 

Although sitting might be relaxing, it also strains the muscles and discs in the back and neck. 

This posture leads to stiffness in the hip flexors and psoas, as well as pressure and ischemia (limited blood flow) in the glutes. (5

Slouching can stretch the spinal ligaments beyond their healthy limits, and bad posture can damage your spinal discs. (6)

Try stretching these muscles to help reverse some of the stiffness caused by sitting:

  • Pecs/chest
  • Scalenes traps in the neck
  • Hip flexors 

Changing your posture by standing and moving about for a few minutes every half hour can help maintain your joints and ligaments flexible and pain-free.

Standing Desks Promote Better Workplace Health

While most health experts recommend moving around every 20 to 30 minutes, including 20 minutes of standing each hour, a computer-driven work culture binds you to your desk.

Desk technology, thankfully, has quite literally risen to the occasion with the invention of the standing desk! 

As it turns out, standing improves blood flow and burns up to 30 percent more calories than sitting.

Double points!

But even if you don’t have a standing desk, you can still take a stand against sitting sickness and preserve your spine. 

Stay Active and Take a Stand for Your Spine

Here are a few handy hacks for squeezing more movement into your workday:

  • Sneak in some additional steps by parking far away from your office.
  • Take a stroll during your lunch break.
  • Ask your employees to walk laps while you talk rather than holding a meeting in a conference room.
  • Set a timer for a 30-minute stretch break at your computer.
  • Instead of emailing a coworker, go see them in person.

The goal here is pretty straightforward: Sit Less & Move More! 

If your job doesn’t allow you to move while you work, keep in mind that shifting and adjusting your body position just slightly is better for your back and neck than staying completely still.  (7)

Next up, we’ll take a look at some stretches to release tension in the spine…

5 Best Stretches to Relieve Back Pain

Movements that lengthen the spine, stretch the body, and strengthen the muscles are like all-natural medicine for aches and pains. (8)

Some of these stretches can be done no matter where you are. Just get up from your desk and stretch!

Let’s take a closer look at some of the best stretches to relieve back pain:

1. Cat-Cow Movements

These gentle spinal motions are an excellent way to warm up for more challenging postures while also relieving mid-back stiffness.

  1. Begin on all fours with your wrists precisely beneath your shoulders and your knees beneath your hips. 
  1. Spread your fingers wide and correctly distribute your weight across your hand. 
  1. Inhale, softly raising your pelvis and heart, sinking your belly, and lifting your face.
  1. Exhale. 
  1. Arch your back like a cat, curving your spine, tucking your pelvis in, and allowing your head to dangle freely.
  1. Repeat 5-7 times, allowing your spine to expand and the stretch to deepen as you warm up.

2. Passive Backbend

A passive backbend can help release stress after a hard day at work. 

Hold this pose for preferably three minutes. 

  1. Wrap a blanket, towel, or yoga mat in a towel.
  1. Lay the roll out on the floor. 
  1. Place the roll against the bottom of your shoulder blades, towards the center of your back. 
  1. Elevate your head as far as you need to so that your neck is supported.
  1. Relax into the pose, using a second blanket as a cushion under your head if required. 

3. Knees-to-chest Stretch 

  1. Lie on your back and bend your legs; make sure your feet are flat on the ground.
  1. Put your hands on your thighs (back part) or below your knees to pull your legs toward your chest.
  1. Pull until a slight strain is felt.
  1. Hold the position for 15 seconds.
  1. Return to your starting point.
  1. Rep nine times more.
  1. Stretching the low back muscles from the knees to the chest

4. Seated Twist

Twists are an excellent technique to relax the mid-back and increase flexibility. 

According to yoga philosophy, twists assist in wringing out the internal organs and promote detoxification. (9)

Maintain a long spine by sitting up straight during the twist. 

Twists are intended to lengthen the spine; however, the turning movement might compress the vertebrae if the back is rounded. 

If feasible, sit cross-legged or in a chair.

  1. Inhale, raise your right hand behind you, and bring your left hand to your right knee.
  1. Exhale and turn your heart to the right. 
  1. Lengthen your spine, allowing the twist to wring out the tension in the center of your back. 
  1. Bring your attention to your heart and feel the back of your neck open.
  1. Do not over-twist by tugging on your knee or twisting too hard.
  1. Only gaze as far as your neck will allow over your right shoulder.
  1. Hold for 3-5 breaths before returning to the center, where you will stay for one breath cycle.
  1. Repeat the same for the other side. 

5. Cobra Pose

This mild backbend stretches and strengthens the back.

  1. Lie on your stomach, with your body long and your chin on the mat or face down. 
  1. Position your hands beneath your shoulders.
  1. Inhale and lift your chest off the ground, using your back muscles to do so.
  1. Approximately 95% of the bend should come from the back, with only a little push from the hands.
  1. Hold for two breaths before releasing. 
  1. Repeat twice more.

If you frequently suffer from back pain, it may be time to make some changes to the way you sit. 

The next time you find yourself at a desk or in front of your television, give these tips a try.

If you have any more questions about your spine and sitting, please reach out to us at Complete Care Health Centers.


We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.

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