As clinicians we are frequently asked why is sitting bad for your spine? The technicality of getting pain whilst being in a resting state is curious. 

Usually, we experience pain after a series of actions, mostly people remember a strenuous event that has “probably been done with a bad posture”. That is often true, but, let’s explore the effects of prolonged sitting on our spines.

On average, many spend their time sitting with an incorrect posture, and those who try to sit properly, rarely are able to maintain a correct position throughout the day. This has tremendous cascade effects on our bodies. 

As human beings, let’s not forget, we are designed to move. As technology advances, unfortunately we regress. “Alexa turn on the lights!” We are getting quite lazy. 

The lower back is possibly the most common area that hurts whilst sitting. But why? 

What happens when we sit?

Our spine has curvatures; the lumbar spine (lower back) curvature is a “lordosis”, the thoracic spine (torso) is a “kyphosis” and the cervical spine (neck) is once again a “lordosis”.

When we sit, we immediately lose some curvature on the lower back, changing the way we bear weight on our vertebras, discs and soft tissues (ligaments and muscles). The poorer the form, the more we will tend to stress and rely on the strength of our discs and ligaments in the spine.

Furthermore, some groups of muscles will remain fairly static in a shortened position. This contributes to muscles tightening as well as stiffness in the joints. Some of these are, the hip flexors (the psoas) and your diaphragm which is often in a position of disadvantage when you slouch. This alters your breathing pattern and mechanics, tightening your lower back and thoracic spine, as well as increasing demand on your neck muscles to lift up your chest to allow your lungs to be filled with air.

Your gluteal muscles are also in a constant position of “stretch” and this in turn, de-conditions them which will impact your body mechanics even further and will aggravate on your spine, hips and knees. 

The upper body instead will see a protraction of your shoulders, tightening your pectoral muscles, and “stretching” your back muscles making them weaker; therefore your body will have a muscular imbalance that will alter your posture over time. Your head will “fall” forward, making your neck more “lordotic” (an inverted “C” shape) which will shorten the posterior muscles and ligaments, and weaken the deep ones in the front of it. Neck pain, at that point, is right around the corner. 

So how to avoid this? 

I know, this sounds tragic. The best advice is getting up often and walk around the office for a couple of minutes. This will get the blood going and will activate your muscles and loosen your joints. Furthermore, on advice on how to sit with better form, go check out our last article. My colleague has a few tips for you!

If you’re sitting and you’re in pain we can give you treatment and guidance to keep you out of trouble.

Call us, we’re here to help 🙂