Can something as simple as sitting cause upper back pain?

Yes.  Here’s how:

Let’s say you are in your nice comfy recliner.  And let’s say you are reading.  Or doing hand work.  Or using your laptop.

Where is your head?

That’s right.  It is sticking out in front of your body.

When sit like that often enough your muscles get used to it.  And then no matter whether you are sitting or standing, those muscles will hold your head in front of your body.

And your head is heavy!

Gravity can pull much more easily on your head when it is sticking out in front of you instead of over your body (where it belongs.)

Your upper back muscles get strained when your head is “out there.”  Your upper back muscles just cannot hold it there without complaining.  That’s way more work than they were designed for.

Did you realize that pain in your upper back is a complaint?  Your muscles are telling you that they are not happy.  🙁  That’s the only way they can talk.

Okay.  Back to sitting.

It really doesn’t matter whether you are in a recliner or other type of chair or in front of your computer or in your car.  If you sit in a position that allows your head to drift forward (like slouching does) the same thing will happen.

Strained upper muscles from a “forward head” posture can cause

  • Pain in your neck and shoulders
  • Knots in your back
  • Pain in your head and face
  • Migraines
  • Pain in your lower back
  • and more.

What’s the solution?

Position yourself when you are seated so that your head is over your body.  If you have lost your natural curve in your lower back, place a small hand towel (or something similar) behind your waist.  That will help position your curves correctly and move your head over your body.

If you find yourself slumping or slouching, just keep straightening up again.  If you lift your breastbone, that will also help you regain the curve behind your waist (it should curve inward, toward your belly button.)

If you lift your breastbone and also hold in your stomach it will help create strong torso muscles.

And the best way to get and keep your heavy head over your body where it belongs is to get a strong back.  All of the muscles from the back your knees to the back of your head need to be strong.  Then they can hold you up.

When I created a program called “Knots In Your Back” I included a Simple Strengthening video in the package.  It is designed to help you get a strong back so easily!

You can find out more about the program by requesting the report, Knots In Your Upper Back, on the top right hand side of this page.

Move more.  Sit less.  Get a strong back.  Get rid of your upper back pain. 🙂


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6 Comments on How Sitting Causes Pain In Your Upper Back

  1. Kathryn, I hear you. It’s easier said than done and challenging to remember. Can you come nag me every 30 min or so to see if I’m sitting straight.ha.ha.

  2. Hi Sharon,

    Here’s a handy tip. Pretend there is a spotlight on your breastbone. Try to keep it pointed slightly upward. And tucking a lift behind your waist is helpful, too. A hand towel makes a good “waist support.” Just fold it to the size that fits you best. A towel is easy to change sizes if it starts to bother you. A towel also makes a great waist support for car seats.

    The most often you catch yourself and correct your posture, the sooner your body will start to remember where it’s supposed to be. And take lots of stretch breaks. Get your arms up and back and out of the usual position. Create a good stretch for the front of your arms and body. 🙂

    Thanks for writing!


  3. Just me says:

    How often should I stretch? I used a computer for about 4 hours a day when I was getting my MBA. However, I got up and I didn’t stay sitting for 4 hours straight. Now, I do that where I volunteer since I answer the phones. I’m sitting for 4-6 hours a day and I’ve only been doing this for a week now and my upper back hurts! So, should I get up and stretch one time each hour? My head always seems to roll foward (since 2002) since I like to see what I’m reading on the computer. Would a larger zoom level (on computer) help, or is this head rolling forward very common that even people with perfect vision do it too?

  4. Hi You! Thank you for writing. You are on the right track thinking that you should be stretching. Taking one or two or three stretch breaks each hour would be great for your upper back pain.

    When we sit or stand with a forward head it really strains the muscles in the upper back.

    Try looking down with your eyes rather than your head. That way you can keep your chin and head up. Are you the one with perfect vision?

    We were built to move rather than to sit. This means that even people with perfect vision can fall into imperfect posture and habits if they are not moving enough.

    Squeezing your shoulder blades together and down toward your waist, rolling your shoulders up and back, and lifting the crown of your head during your stretch breaks will all help you get rid of your upper back pain naturally.

    The Pain Relief Coach.


  5. joe johnson says:

    will a neck brace help

  6. Hi Joe. A neck brace might help you feel better while it is on but it doesn’t allow you to use your muscles. It might support your neck but won’t strengthen your upper back. Please write again if you would like to give me more information about exactly where your pain is and when it happens. Perhaps I can provide some helpful long-distance suggestions.

    The Pain Relief Coach