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Proper Posture for the Low Back

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Updated July 17, 2014

Correct seated posture.
Science Photo Library/Getty Images

One of the most common causes of low back pain is poor sitting posture. When you sit, especially for long periods, excessive strain is put on the muscles, tendons, and discs in the low back. This strain can lead to low back pain.

Anatomy of the Spine
The low back, or lumbar spine, is comprised of 5 bones called vertebrae. Between these bones are spongy shock absorbers called discs. There are two parts to the disc: the inner part called the nucleus pulposes, and the outer part called the annulus fibrosis. The nucleus pulposes is a jelly-like material, while the annulus fibrosis is stiffer. The discs can therefore be thought of as mini jelly doughnuts between the bones. There are many muscles and ligaments that attach to the lumbar spine.

When viewing the spine from the side, a forward curve can be seen in the low back. When sitting, many people slouch. This slouched position causes the forward curve in the low back to reverse. The reversal of the forward curve puts excessive strain on the front side of the disc, and the jelly in the middle of the disc gets pushed towards the back. When the jelly pushes out far enough, nerves are pinched and low back pain may occur.

How to Attain Correct Sitting Posture
Normally there should be a forward curve in the low back. When sitting, you must use a small towel roll or lumbar pillow to help support the curve in the low back. To use a lumbar roll properly, sit in a chair with your hips pressed all the way up to the back of the chair. Then lean forward slightly and place the roll at the small of your back, at the level of your beltline. This will help keep the proper curve in your low back.

Poor sitting posture is one of the major causes of low back pain. It puts excessive pressure on the discs, muscles, and joints in the back. Exercising and maintaining proper sitting posture are important steps to eliminating or preventing low back pain.

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