Protecting Your Back While Sitting

Topic Overview

Slouching puts stress on your lower back and contributes to low back problems. When you sit, keep your shoulders back, keeping a slight curve in your lower back.

  • Place a small pillow, a rolled-up towel, or a lumbar roll in the curve of your back if you need extra support.
  • Sit in a chair that is low enough to let you place both feet flat on the floor with both knees slightly lower than your hips. If your chair or desk is too high, use a foot rest to raise your knees.
  • When driving your car, adjust your seat to keep your knees nearly level with your hips. Sit straight, and drive with both hands on the steering wheel. Your arms should be in a slightly flexed, comfortable position. Use a small pillow, a rolled-up towel, or a lumbar roll if you need extra back support. If your seat angles down from front to back, create a more horizontal surface to sit on with a travel cushion or triangular foam wedge.

It this sitting position causes pain, talk to your doctor or physical therapist. You may have a condition such as a problem with a disc or with bones in your back.

If you spend a lot of time sitting, get up, move around, and stretch frequently. Consider varying your seating arrangement:

  • A kneeling chair helps tilt your hips forward, taking pressure off of the lower back.
  • Sitting on an exercise ball provides a firm, cushioned seat that can rock from side to side. This type of movement helps you keep your back loose.

Related Information

Credits

Author Shannon Erstad, MBA, MPH
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
Last Updated February 3, 2010

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