Why Does Your Back Hurt While Sitting?
Most of us can relate to that momentary feeling when we stand up after sitting static for a period of time when our back and hips feel like they have just been released from prison but can’t quite run away. For too many people this “my back hurts while sitting” discomfort carries on throughout their day. This is especially concerning for those who have no apparent history of back injury and find that the immediate discomfort diminishes as we completely straighten up and begin to take a few steps.
Researchers have been investigating this transient phenomenon for some time trying to figure out why everyone seems to suffer from back pain while sitting. They have theorized that when we assume positions that result in a significant imbalance of postural support muscles and ligaments and maintain static position for a long duration, there is an alarming amount of activity going on within the actual tissues. One key element is a reaction within these soft tissues that is referred to as “creep”.
Imagine the tissues surrounding a vertebral joint within your spine; when this joint assumes a flexed position (which is most likely to occur when you are sitting at a 90-degree hip flexion), your lumbar spine undergoes a flattened position.
This lumbar segment of your spine becomes flexed and the soft tissues on the front of your spine become shortened and those on the backside become lengthened. When we walk or otherwise maintain some dynamic movement, this contraction and relaxation is a natural occurrence where these tissues lengthen and shorten with the movement. They will then settle in a balanced configuration at rest when in a balanced standing position. When we maintain these flexed positions for a length of time the elastomeric properties change as a result of a diminished neurological stimulation and a lack of blood flow. When we stand up from this compromised sitting posture these tissues respond slowly to the renewed stimulation and blood flow which is why in several to many steps we seem to recover.
Dr. David Lee, a Chiropractor from Toronto, Ontario, explains that “when you are decreasing the amount of blood supply going to those tissues, you can start to get SB scar tissue built up, so now a muscle that should be hydrated, loose, and freely moving has now become shortened and it can become weaker and dysfunctional with a lot of adhesions building up.” Learn more about the Soft Tissue Creep here.
Over time, this creep phenomenon may result in a stiffening of the soft tissues which may compromise recovery and the optimal balancing for support. This can have a carry-over effect to other activities of daily living. An unbalanced joint can lead to a possible injury from other activities, sometimes something very innocent such as a sneeze or a sudden twist. Sound familiar?
So, what should we do about sitting back pain?
While standing as an alternative seems like a solution, this also comes with some drawbacks and a good blend of active sitting and standing is a better consideration. When we sit we should attempt to sit with a more open hip angle where our knees are positioned lower than our hips. This allows for less flexion of the lumbar spine. We should then also ensure that our pelvis is properly supported to reduce the need for a prolonged engagement of our core stabilizing muscles, which otherwise will exhaust and cause us to assume a collapsed posture. Lastly, we need to introduce movement in an attempt to keep these tissues stimulated and supplied with blood flow and the necessary oxygen and nutrients. This movement does not need to be excessive but should be as constant as possible.
An active sitting chair like the CoreChair can help introduce safe, fluidic movement into your workday. Better yet, these three important principles were major focus points during the design process of the CoreChair. The low back support catches the top of the back of your pelvis, to prevent slumping and the excessive flexion as previously mentioned. The adjustable resistance then encourages subtle movement in all directions up to 14 degrees, with an option to add more in an attempt to keep this area stimulated.
Anecdotal feedback from thousands of CoreChair users suggests that this transient discomfort described above is experienced when sitting on traditional chairs and is significantly diminished when using their CoreChair. This feedback is supported by studies on the CoreChair that investigate the pelvic position and lumbar flexion as well as enhanced blood flow.
Patrick Harrison is a Kinesiologist, Founder & CEO of the CoreChair. In 2008, Patrick leveraged this experienced-based knowledge to create the CoreChair, an active sitting solution for deskbound employees suffering from discomfort and the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. He has become a source of knowledge for individuals and corporations to identify health risks manifesting as back pain and metabolic disorders and to implement solutions in the workplace.