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Does Sitting Too Much Cause Low Back Pain?

3 best exercises for lower back pain ~ Dr. Angela Walk

One of the most common causes of low back pain is prolonged sitting. There is no doubt that sitting too much is harmful for our general health, but it also wreaks havoc on our muscles and Joints, especially our lower back.

Sitting puts more stress on the joints of the spine, discs, and muscles than any other position. We weren't meant to sit as much as we do.

My practice is located in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. The majority of my patients come from the surrounding office buildings and high rises.

90% of those patients sit at workstations. My practice was built on successfully treating repetitive injuries from poor workstation ergonomics and poor sitting posture.

Mechanical dysfunction of the lower back is one of the primary conditions that I see associated with prolonged sitting.

My focus with this article is to shed light on how prolonged sitting leads to lower back dysfunction, weakness of our core muscles, hip flexor tightness, and poor posture.

Dr. Angela Walk

Sports Chiropractor

The Plantar Fasciitis Doc

Why Is Sitting Bad For Your Back?

The damaging effects of prolonged sitting has been the focus of many recent studies, and for good reason. You may have heard the phrase "sitting is the new smoking".

This implies just just how unhealthy it is to sit for too many hours in a day. In this article, I will focus on (3) of the biomechanical presentations that lead to lower back pain.

  1. Sitting weakens our posterior chain core muscles (lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and postural muscles).

  2. Sitting creates tightness and restrictions in our hip flexor group

  3. Sitting leads to poor posture and poor movement patters

Let's take a look at each of these components individually.

1. Sitting Weakens Our Core Muscles

Can a weak core cause back pain? Dr. Angela Walk

What Muscles Get Weak From Sitting

We hear so often that sitting is bad for us, but those negative effects don’t just disappear when we stand. Prolonged sitting can cause some lasting damage.

Sitting for prolonged periods can weaken the primary movers of your hips and low back. These muscles are called the posterior chain muscles and include the low back extensors, buttocks, and hamstring muscles.

These muscles are severely underused when sitting, and this results in weakness. When your posterior chain is weak, too much stress is placed on your weaker, vulnerable lower back.

This can create many pain syndromes such as low back pain, sciatica, disc herniations, degenerative joint disease, knee pain, and hip issues.

You will not correct a back problem without strengthening and balancing your core. When your core is strong, your posture is upright and effortless, you move properly, and you feel strong and flexible.


Make an effort to stand more throughout the day, and avoid sitting for more than one hour at a time.

Also, to increase the strength of your posterior chain, perform the exercise below 3 times per day. You can quickly integrated this one exercise while practicing your new standing schedule and notice some immediate benefits.

The best part? It only takes 30 seconds to incorporate into your healthy workstation routine, and requires no equipment.

This exercise is called The Founder and is part of a core strengthening protocol called Foundation Training.

The Founder

  • Keep your head up, looking straight ahead

  • Extend your lower spine by lifting your chest and pushing your buttocks backwards

  • Keep your weight on your heels

  • Stick your buttocks back (hinge at your hips) as far as possible

  • When you lift your arms, keep them close to your ears

  • Hold for 15-30 seconds

  • Perform 3 times per day while at your workstation

2. Sitting Creates Tight Hip Flexors

How Do Tight Hip Flexors Cause Back Pain?

Prolonged sitting and activities like jogging and cycling can lead to tight hip flexors and muscle imbalances which contribute to low back pain.

Tight hip flexors are often the hidden culprit in low back pain. They can be the root cause of joint pain, discomfort while walking, hips locking up or popping, unnatural pelvic alignment, and poor posture.

They are the muscles that attach the upper body to the lower body and sit within the abdominal wall. They attach to the lower vertebrae in the front of the body, move through the pelvic area, and extend to the upper thigh area.

Prolonged sitting is the most common cause of tight hip flexors. There are other potential causes of tight hip flexors, the most common of which include:

  • Having a weak core

  • Regular running or cycling

  • Sleeping on your side with your knees pulled up

  • Sitting for long periods of time

To avoid tight tip flexors, you can do your best to avoid some of the causes listed above.

However, they’re not all completely avoidable. So, you’ll also need to increase the flexibility of your hip flexors with active stretching.

Active stretching involves only holding a stretch for 2 seconds and performing 10-15 repetitions. This is different than static stretching that is holding a stretch for 30-60 seconds.

Active stretching is the best way to elongate your hip flexor group.


Tightness in the hip flexor group can be treated with myofascial release, soft tissue mobilization, and active stretching. See below for my favorite exercise to unlock and lengthen your hip flexors.

Active Stretching of The Hip Flexor Group:

  • Begin in a lunge position

  • Grasp the foot of your back leg

  • Lean forward on your front leg

  • Feel the pull in your hip flexor group

  • Hold for 2 seconds and perform 10-15 repetitions

3. Sitting Leads To Poor Posture & Movement Patterns

How Does Sitting Cause Poor Posture?

Prolonged sitting also leads to poor posture and poor movement patterns. Poor movement patterns lead to low back pain, hip pain, headaches, migraines, neck pain, and shoulder pain.

Have you noticed how some people stand and walk with great posture while others walk hunched over leading with their head? There’s an expression that states we are a product of our environment.

And that’s very true. This mean’s the way we sit, stand, walk, or run all affect the muscles and bone structures of our bodies.

The more repetitive the position or movement, the more we promote tissues to grow and become fixed. Sitting leads to tight muscles in the front of our body such as the anterior neck muscles, chest muscles, and short abdominals.

Mechanically, this is how our posture becomes slumped. Most everything we do is forward facing including reading, cooking, looking down at our phones. Overtime, the muscles in the front of our bodies shorten and we lose the ability to hold and upright posture.


Try improving your sitting posture. Proper posture is lining the center of the ear up with the center of the shoulder, and holding your head upright, chin level, and chest high.

Also, place your lower back firmly against the back of the chair and consider using a lumbar support.

Take frequent breaks. I recommend standing every 20-30 minutes and stretching or walking in place. I know that may seem impossible, and you may be thinking "How will I get anything done?".

Try an adjustable workstations that will allow you to alter your position from sitting to standing throughout the day. These are becoming more popular and for good reason.

Try this exercise while sitting at your workstation to improve your posture:

Seated Shoulder Retraction

  • Start with your arms at shoulder width apart out in front of you

  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together and retract your shoulders

  • Hold this position for a 2 seconds, and then release it.

  • Repeat this exercise 10-15 times

  • Perform 3 times during your work day


Prolonged, static postures will eventually create mechanical issues and take a toll on your body, so take intermittent breaks and avoid sitting for too long.

Our activities throughout the day determine our posture. If we are constantly in a forward facing posture, the muscles in the front of our bodies become shortened and the muscles in the back of our body becomes lengthened and weak.

We must strengthen and redefine our core to make any real change in our mechanics.

I hope you enjoy reading my health articles. If you have any questions. I'm happy to help.

Best of Health,

Dr. Angela

Hi, I'm Dr. Angela Walk I have been involved in the health and wellness industry for over 25 years as a sports chiropractor and foot health coach.

I have written extensively for health publications and I am keenly aware of trends and new developments in natural health.

I embrace an active lifestyle combining diet, exercise and healthy choices. My goal is to inform my readers of natural options available to them in hopes of improving their health and quality of life.

GET FREE ACCESS! Dr. Angela Walk is on a mission to provide you and your family with the highest quality natural tips and organic products...Join me on my Facebook Page or Instagram Page.


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