We all experience low back pain at some point in our lives. Despite the frequency in its occurrence, I have found most people don’t have a good understanding of the common causes of low back pain. By understanding the common causes, patients can then learn techniques to treat themselves and decrease the risk for recurrence in the future.

Postural Neglect

The most common cause of low back pain is postural stress.  Examples of this include  sitting for a prolonged period of time, prolonged forward bending, awkward or heavy lifting, or standing or lying down for a prolonged period of time in an awkward position.  With these postural stresses, the natural curve in our back, our lordotic curve, is flattened, thus placing stress on the intervertebral structures. Unfortunately many of us spend several hours a day with our low back in a flexed posture.  Over time, we lose the ability to maintaining our natural lordotic curve in our back and our low back becomes flattened, placing stress on soft tissues in our spine and surrounding tissues. This flattening of the lumbar spine often leads to chronic low back pain.

When pain from postural stress is initially felt, it can be eliminated by correcting the posture. However, as time passes, if poor posture becomes habitual, changes can occur in the joints, leading to excessive wear and premature aging of the spine. The effects of this poor posture can be as serious as severe and harmful injuries to the spine. 

Elderly who exhibit deformities of the spine are an example of poor postural habits. The bent, stooped posture is not the normal effects of aging. Rather, this bent, stooped posture is the result of years of poor posture that after years, becomes difficult if not impossible to reverse.  This is why it is so important to be attentive to maintaining good posture with sitting, standing, lifting and while resting. 


Sitting Posture

Poor sitting posture often leads to low back pain.  Once low back pain has already developed, poor sitting posture exacerbates the condition.  When we sit with a flattened low back posture for a period of time, the muscles that support our low back become tired and they relax. Our low back sags and this results in a slouched sitting posture.  If we maintain this posture long enough, it causes overstretching of ligaments of our spine and produces pain. Once this slouched posture has become a habit, it causes distortion of the discs contained in the intervertebral joints of the spine. Once this occurs, movements as well as positions produce low back pain. 

Prolonged Sitting

People with sedentary desk jobs often easily develop low back pain as they often sit with a slouched posture for several hours at a time. At first you may experience discomfort in the lower back while sitting for a prolonged period of time or when attempting to stand up from the sitting position.  This is caused by overstretching of the soft tissue structures of the spine.  As this progresses, you may find that you need to stand up and move around to cause the pain to resolve. As this postural neglect in sitting persists, you will find that you are not able to relieve the pain as easily and have difficulty standing up straight or walking.  Eventually you will reach a stage where you experience severe pain  that has resulted from major distortion of the affected joints and the affected joints cannot regain their normal shape and function to achieve normal movement. When a movement is attempted,, a disc bulge increases strain on the overstretched surrounding soft tissues. Further, the disc bulge may press on the sciatic nerve, leading to pain and possibly numbness and tingling down the leg. 


If you find that you experience low back pain with sitting and are having difficulty ridding yourself of your low back pain, you can benefit from McKenzie MDT-based treatment at our clinic. Britt Zink will assess your condition and will provide you with recommendations on how you can rid yourself of your low back pain once and for all.