sitting all day leads to neck and back pain

You’ve probably heard the idea that sitting all day leads to neck and back pain. At first glance, the idea makes sense, but how accurate is it? Are we genuinely increasing the risk of aches in these areas if we sit around all day?


Let’s discuss.

Does Sitting Lead To Neck and Back Pain?

Sitting isn’t necessarily bad for our health or posture. The problem is that the average person today sits for a long time, often slumping. Let’s take an average office worker as an example:


William works a 9 to 5 job for an IT company. He wakes up at 6:30 to shower, shave, dress, and eat breakfast. He is out the door by 8 because he must commute for around 50 minutes to get to the office. Will drives a car, which means he is sitting for the entire time, likely hunched over.


At the office, Will sits on his chair, hunches in front of his computer, and starts working. A few hours later, he gets up to sit in a different chair for his lunch. Once he’s finished lunch, Will might move around for a bit, but it’s back to the computer by 1 PM and working until 5. He then gets into his car for his evening commute, which takes him another 50-60 minutes.


The evening often consists of sitting at the computer or on the couch to watch TV, which adds a few more hours of sitting. By the time he hits the sack, Will has spent twelve or more hours sitting with his shoulders rolled forward.

Because of his lifestyle, Will is more likely to experience neck and back pain than people who spend more time standing and moving around.

What Leads to Pain In the Neck And Back As a Result of Sitting?

The primary issue with sitting for prolonged periods is the tightening of crucial muscles in the body. Most notably, sitting with your shoulders rolled forward leads to tightness in the pectoralis major (chest), thoracic (mid and upper back) region, and neck. As a result, your posture worsens, and your spine loses its healthy and neutral position. Over time, that tightness results in spinal pressure and irritation of crucial nerves, leading to pain and poor mobility.

Sitting all day has the same impact on other muscles in the body, and the effects are magnified by weakness in the opposite muscles. For example, sitting can lead to tight hip flexors because these muscles remain in a shortened position for many hours. The effect becomes worse when the opposite muscles, the hip extensors (glutes and hamstrings), are weak and undeveloped.

How to Reduce The Negative Impact of Sitting On Your Posture and Well-Being

One of the best ways to reduce the adverse impact of sitting is to break up periods of stagnation with regular movement. Even if you’re at work, getting up every 20 to 30 minutes will go a long way in keeping you healthy. You can get up, walk around the office for a minute, stretch, take a few deep breaths, and sit back down.

The second thing you should do is maintain a healthy sitting posture:

  • Shoulders over your hips (upright torso)
  • Shoulder blades retracted
  • Computer screen 50 to 75 cm away from your eyes
  • Screen at roughly head height or slightly lower
  • Feet flat on the floor and knees bent at 90 degrees or slightly more

Slumping comes naturally once we’ve sat for a while, so you must be conscious and do your best to remain seated in the correct position.


Check out our Rehab & Training Guide for more rehab exercises you can do to prevent and relieve injuries.

May 06, 2022 — Daniel Felstein

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