Why Is Sitting So Hard On Your Spine?

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: February 10, 2022

Young woman suffering from back pain in office

When we think of ways that we can injure our spines, our minds likely race to extremely physical activities, like sports or manual labor, or a traumatic accident like a fall or a car crash. However, acute trauma isn’t the only way that a person can injure their spine. In fact, millions of Americans end up visiting a spine specialist every year because of the impact of a much more passive action that stresses their spine. We’re talking, of course, about sitting.

But why is sitting so hard on your spine? It’s not like it’s a very strenuous activity and you’re not putting dynamic stress on your muscles with difficult movements, so what gives? Below, we take a closer look at why sitting can be so hard on your spine.

Why Sitting Can Hurt Your Back

Sitting can be deceptively hard on your spine for a number of reasons. For starters, the human body is designed to stand upright. Our ancestors weren’t hunched behind a desk for most of their day, and our body isn’t designed to be in this position for an extended position for a number of reasons. Here’s a look at some of the reasons why sitting can be so hard on your spine.

  • Contributes To Poor Posture – When you’re standing, it’s easier to naturally have a healthy posture. Your back is upright, stress can be more evenly dispersed and your head tends to stay positioned above your shoulders. When we are seated, we oftentimes slouch or hunch forward, and that puts excessive strain on your lumbar or cervical spine. Over time, poor posture can lead to disc shifting, disc degeneration and decreased spinal health caused by poor circulation. Standing and working to shift to a better seated posture can help to limit the effects of sitting on our spine.
  • Nerve Damage – Sitting can also lead to spinal nerve issues because of the prolonged pressure that being seated can put on your lumbar spine. Extended spinal pressure can cause muscle contraction, inflammation and nerve compression, triggering symptoms like pain, numbness or localized weakness. If we regularly sit in the same position for hours on end, the same areas will be stressed, placing them at a heightened risk for nerve compression and related symptoms.
  • Spinal Muscular Degeneration – Your muscles work best when they are being challenged with dynamic movement, and conversely, they can atrophy if they remain stagnant or in one position for extended periods. Sitting for long durations can actually make spinal muscles less able to support the weight of your body, making injuries and back pain more likely. Movement helps to develop muscles and increase circulation that help muscles get the nutrients they need to thrive.
  • Weight Gain – Finally, living an overall sedentary lifestyle with limited movement and exercise can lead to weight gain, and it should come as no surprise that this can be hard on your back. The more you weigh, the more stress your spine has to help displace. If it’s displacing more pressure, and forced to remain in the same stressed position for long periods, pain can develop. Movement helps you avoid weight gain and in turn keep additional pressure off your spine.

Sitting is something that we all do, but we shouldn’t overlook how the action can affect our spine health. Limit your time in a seated position, invest in a sit-to-stand workstation or find ways to incorporate more movement into your daily life to help ward off problems caused by prolonged sitting. For help dealing with your new or existing spine pain, regardless of whether or not it’s fueled by prolonged sitting, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.

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