Research findings on back pain (sitting is not the problem after all).

Sitting for long periods makes me feel like crap, and I am not the only one.

So what have scientists discovered?

What can help?

Causes and cures

Chronic lower back pain is experienced by millions of people worldwide. It has led to increased disability, psychological problems, and a reduced quality of life.

Many jobs require sitting and screen time, but it is too simplistic to say that sitting is the problem.

We know for sure that it’s not just sedentary lifestyles that are causing pain.

Every person’s discomfort has a reason, and that root cause (or multiple causes) is unique to them. That is why there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to curing pain or anything else.

Photo by RODNAE Productions

Workers aged 30-60

Sitting for long periods without a break is a more accurate explanation about why sitting can cause pain.

When it comes to aches and stiffness, those who stand all day are not much better off! Lately I read a robust, well-designed study carried out in a school of physiotherapy in India.

The team looked at the habits of 100 workers. 50 people had to sit all day for work, the other 50 did not. People’s footwear, weight, and the amount of hours worked daily (7-8 on average) all impacted on where they felt pain in the body and how severe it was.

Standing V sitting

Some folks in the research study had an old or recent injury that niggled, others had experienced illness and disease in the past, which they blamed that for their discomfort. Overall, there was not much difference between the groups. 76% of people with standing occupations and 70% of those who had to sit all day experienced back pain.

People churn out statistics all the time to sell goods and services. My training (at MA level in the sociology of health) has made me more aware of the nuances. Also, it is important to me to remain open to new data as it emerges. Ego wants to grip onto a view or fact and be a know-it-all. But we can only know what unfolds, and science is constantly evolving, so we too must remain open to new information as well as co-creating new knowledge.

Photo: Ksenia Chernaya.

Everything is connected

Now, back to the back. It is very important to take breaks rather than stay in the one posture. Spending long periods in the one position can cause a compression in the spine or stress on various muscle groups.^ When that happens, pain follows.

Breathe deep

Did you know that when we are not breathing deeply and fully our organs do not function properly? How we breathe affects our mood and engergy levels too. That is why I take the view that body and mind are one despite the notion of ‘mental health’ and ‘physical health’ as separate entities that persists here in Europe.

Photo by Pixabay.

What helps?

  • Variety is key. We are designed to move and to bend in different ways. We also need rest and relaxation.
  • Regular breaks and changing the position of the body can ease discomfort.
  • Gentle yoga, walking, swimming, and tai chi can all help.

Take care

If you have severe, sharp, or long term pain, or you are concerned about any aspect of your health then seeing a doctor is a good idea.

Be careful. Google can not give you an x-ray or help your with inflammation that might be lingering! Self diagnosis can be lethal so if you have concerns, see a clinically-trained professional.


^Pillai D, Haral P. (2018), ‘Prevalence of low back pain in sitting vs standing postures in working professionals in the age group of 30-60‘. Int J Health Sci Res.

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