Sitting should not have to cause low back pain, and there are things you can do to remedy this annoying problem.

Why do some people have low back pain after sitting for a while? Let’s assume that if your low back hurts after prolonged sitting, it’s not because you recently fell, were in a car or ski accident, or wrenched muscles while lifting something heavy.

“Sitting creates the most pressure on the intervertebral discs,” says Dr. Moshe Lewis, MD, who is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and has been the chief of PM&R at California Pacific Medical Center.

“Solutions include inversion/tilt tables, traction and core strengthening,” says Dr. Lewis.

Inversion/tilt tables and traction are not practical for many people, but anyone can get started on core strengthening.

I’m a former personal trainer and recommend core strengthening exercises several times a week.

The core is the low back and abdominal regions. There are many core strengthening exercises out there.

A few examples are the back extension with leg support (just about every gym has the equipment for this), and the “good morning” exercise.

good-morning exercise

Good-morning exercise

Another exercise that will engage the core is single-leg chair squats. Sit on a stable, sturdy seat that — ideally — puts your hips higher than your knees. Lift one foot off the floor and rise with only the other leg, into an erect posture.

Single leg chair squat

Single-leg chair squat

Lower back into the seat with control; do not drop or plop back down. If this is impossible, use a higher height seat.

Do each leg 8-12 times. Believe it or not, this will do a very good job of recruiting low back muscles. Do two sets each leg.

NOTE: At no time does the support foot leave contact with the floor! As you sit back down, the foot of the rising leg STAYS FLAT on the floor. Lifting it off is cheating! It stays PUT.

A person with a strong, conditioned core will not experience low back pain after long periods of sitting.

Dr. Lewis is the founder and CEO of Golden Gate Institute for Physical Medicine in CA, which provides education and clinical management of pain.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.