Sitting Back Exercise To Help With Relief From Back Pain

We have discussed proper back posture and sitting posture including the detrimental effects of sitting for extended periods. Sitting without shifting creates a constant gravitational load on spinal discs, so in addition to proper sitting posture and methods to help maintain normal posture and activity in the muscles and discs like the Active Seat, there is a simple method to perform an exercise while sitting that may help.

Prolonged sitting has been shown detrimental to the low back especially when combined with awkward postures. With the rapid development of modern technology, sitting is now the most common posture in today’s workplace. Investigations have shown that sitting induces flexion in the lumbar spine as well as movement of the disc backward and swelling around the end portion of the spinal cord. There is also a correlation to the level of degeneration and disc height loss in sitting. Many lower back problems appear to be related to prolonged sitting with a common clinical reporting of stiffness or pain during and/or after sitting.

We have looked at back pain exercises which can affect the disc and now we look at a similar exercise that you can do while sitting.

This exercise was conceived and coined chair-care by Jerome Fryer, BSc DC, and in an article “Preliminary investigation into a seated unloading movement strategy for the lumbar spine: A pilot study” in a 2010 Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 2010 Apr;14(2):119-26, indicated significant height changes in the spine. “It is therefore likely that this simple seated exercise creates standing height gains of the spine.”

Sitting is associated with loss of the lumbar lordosis, intervertebral disc compression, and height loss, possibly increasing the risk of lower back pain. With a trend toward more sitting jobs worldwide, practical strategies for preventing lumbar flattening and potentially associated low back pain are important. A 2010 article in the Spine Journal. indicates this exercise shows significant gains in total disc area, lordotic angle, and vertical height of the lumbar spine.

In performing the exercise, it is important to be cautious if you have shoulder problems and to use a fist instead of hands if you have carpal tunnel symptoms. It is important to retract the neck similar to our neck exercises as to prevent any neck compression.

Press into the seat cushion with your hands and relax the lower back while creating a distraction (upward) moment in the lumbar spine.


The majority (approximately 60-80%) of your full weight should be supported by the shoulder girdles.

Be sure to keep the chin retracted and arms externally rotated.


Hold for 5 seconds. Most people feel a stretching in the lower back while the weight is “taken off”the lumbar spine.


Gently return to neutral (starting) sitting posture for 1-3 seconds, allowing the full weight to be resupported by the spine. Repeat 4 times.

You can also use your arms to produce the force on the lower back if the chair has arm rests.

sitting back exercises

The purpose of the exercise is to unload pressure on the disc. It should be done slowly at first and you should consult your doctor for any questions regarding your particular back condition.

Modifying The Sitting Back Exercise

A 2015 study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science the exercise was done by relaxing the arms and extending the back until a slight stretch is felt, then holding for 5 seconds and gently returning to a sitting posture using the abdominal muscles. The set consisted of 6 repetitions and was done every 20 minutes over a 2 hour sitting session.

They termed this exercise “dynamic sitting exercise”, and it was shown to help maintain flexibility of the lower back during long periods of sitting. The authors indicate that frequent activation of the muscles to be a “key factor” to keep a healthy lower back.

Using muscle activation strategies can be an effective means to help prevent or reduce back pain, stiffness, reduced range of motion, spinal curve & length reduction, and numbness of the buttocks.