Why Does My Back Hurt When I Sit Too Long?

This exact complaint is one of the most common problems that our experts treat at HT Physio for the people of Farnham.

What concerns us most is not how common this problem is, but how little good quality help that exists for people suffering from a stiff, achy lower back.

Our clients at HT Physio usually report that their back pain often started with a few twinges, which they thought would probably disappear.

But they don’tand they get worse, leaving our poor clients struggling to find a position of comfort when sitting, and anxious as to what’s causing this pain.

Quite often, people will come to one of our Farnham back pain specialists with worries that their “joints are eroding“, their “discs are bulging” and pressing on nerves, or that their spine is simply “worn out“.

Nine times out of ten, this couldn’t be further from the truth!

We find people are also told by their friends and family, or even worse – doctors, that this is just the way it is, that it’s all due to their age and they will just have to put up with it.

Again – most of the time these people are being persuaded NOT to look for a solution to their problem, which can sometimes be easily fixed!

Below are the 5 most common reasons that people develop back pain after they have been sitting for any length of time. Read on past the common reasons to find advice that we give to our clients with this nagging problem.


  • Sitting for too much of the day

Human beings are not made to sit for a long time!

If you look at how we have evolved, as the technological age has developed and things like computers and mobile phones make our lives a lot easier, this occurs at the expense of our physical activity.

Where once upon a time you would have to walk from your house to the post office to send a letter, we now opt to send emails from the comfort of our sofa.

Sitting for long periods of time will change the length of certain muscles around your back and in your legs, shortening some (which get tight) and lengthening others (which get weak).

The effect this has is to alter the way these muscles pull on your back, which can sometimes lead to pain and stiffness.

Ask yourself, are you sat for over an hour at a time on multiple occasions throughout the day? If you can change this, you might feel a huge benefit.


  • Weakness in other muscles in your body

Our muscles are inherently lazy – if they can find an easy way to do something, you can bet they will take that route!

So if your midriff and stomach muscles (referred to as the “core”) become weak, your back will have to do more work than it is designed to do.

Then, when you come to sit down, your back is exhausted and complains about it the only way it knows how – by giving you pain and tightness. It’s trying to tell you that something needs to change!


  • Poor chair height or the sofa is too soft

Ever sat in one of those sofas that you completely sink into as soon as you sit down? Feels great at first right?

But not for long, as your back soon starts to feel the effects of being in a “flexed” forward position for an extended period of time, causing it to become painful.

Sitting for short periods in chairs like this shouldn’t be a problem, but if you’re watching 2 hours of TV in this position every night, it’s not surprising that your back is suffering.


  • Trying too hard to sit upright!

Sitting upright with a straight back at all times is the best posture, right? WRONG!

A long time ago, we used to think that the “military” type postures were best for preventing pain and wear and tear.

Now we know this not to be true, and quite often trying to sit upright all the time can cause more damage than it prevents.

The reason sitting bolt upright can cause you more pain is that the muscles are forced to contract for a long period in order to hold this position, and the waste products generated from all this hard work cause that horrible aching feeling.


  • Slouching too much

Although sitting upright can cause problems, slouching also has the potential to if the aging process has caused the water-filled discs sitting between the bones in your spine to dry out slightly.

Slumping forward puts pressure on the discs, which can become problematic if they have small tears, when these positions are held for a long time.




So what can we do about this?

For a start, if you’re not sure, it’s always best to get a problem checked out by a qualified back pain specialist, like the Farnham back pain experts at HT Physio.

If you are developing pain when sitting and aren’t sure of the cause, getting a back pain specialist to assess your back and lower limbs will help to rule out any more serious causes and make a diagnosis in order to remedy the problem.

In the meantime, here are our tips for taking action to fix the problem yourself:

  • Set a phone alarm for every 30 minutes when you plan to sit for a while – each time the alarm goes off, stand up, stretch and change position.
  • Slow down the speed at which you sit down – you’ll probably find it harder to lower yourself into a chair taking 5 seconds than you would just dropping into the chair. Doing this a few times a day will strengthen your legs and help protect your back.
  • Place a pillow behind your lower back to facilitate a normal ‘C’ shape at the base of your spine, protecting your discs.
  • If it hurts when you sit upright, allow yourself to slouch for a bit.
  • If it hurts to slouch, allow yourself to sit more upright for a bit!

If you’re currently concerned about back pain slowing you down, making you reach for the pain killers or forcing you to worry about risky spinal surgery, speak to one of our back pain experts!

We are offering free telephone consultations to people suffering from back pain who are serious about getting back to living the life they want and deserve.

Simply click this link to fill out a 30-second form and request a telephone consultation with Surrey’s leading long-term back pain expert. 

Remember, most back pain is treatable when it is caught early! If you are very health conscious, you’ll know that it is ALWAYS best to ask for advice from a specialist with a proven track record, like us at HT Physio.

Reach out today and start your journey to a pain-free back!

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