Back pain, especially lower back pain, is a common musculoskeletal condition diagnosed among office workers. Sitting for long hours without respite can cause your hip flexors to shorten, leg muscles to atrophy, and spinal discs to compress.
Other studies have found that extended hours of sitting can also cause medical problems, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar, to develop. This may be since those who sit for long periods don’t get as much exercise and physical activity.
The best way to prevent these conditions from developing is by practicing healthy habits like stretching and exercising even while sitting in front of the desk.
Now, you may be wondering exactly how to stretch your lower back in an office chair.
Below we’ve made a list of six (6) lower back stretches you can do while sitting to help you prevent musculoskeletal conditions from affecting your back.
Read on to learn more.
Table of Contents
Seated Lateral Bends (Sitting Side Stretch)
Having tight muscles along the sides of your body can cause shoulder and back pain. Seated lateral bends are great for releasing both tension in the shoulders and the lower back. If you’re someone who has spinal disc issues, this simple exercise is perfect for you.
How to perform lateral bends:
- To start, sit at the edge of your seat, pulling your spine upright.
- Raise your arms over your head, then gently bend toward your right. Make sure to do this slowly to avoid injury.
- Hold the stretch for five to ten breaths.
- Once done, pull yourself back up to the starting position.
- Repeat for the other side.
Do this stretch five more times, both morning and night, for best results.
Seated Knee Hugs (Seated Knee-to-Chest Stretch)
Seated knee-to-chest stretches are often executed while lying down, but it’s fine to do them while seated. The purpose of this exercise is to stretch your hip and lower back muscles. It also helps to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves.
How to perform knee hugs:
- Start by sitting upright on your chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Take your right knee and slowly pull it toward your chest. Avoid hunching over your leg so you can get the full benefits of the stretch.
- Hold this pose for five to ten breaths before moving to the other leg.
The same happens: you lift your left leg up and slowly pull it to your chest. Hold and release.
Repeat everything five more times for the best results.
Seated Forward Fold
This exercise can help improve both lower and upper trunk mobility. Traditionally, you do this on the floor with your legs in front of you. But considering you’re in the office and you don’t want to distract others from their work, it’s best to stick with your office chair.
How to perform a forward fold:
- You can start by sitting halfway on your chair with your legs spread in front of you. Keep your body straight.
- When you’re ready, reach down between your legs until your hands touch the ground. You should feel the stretch on your lower back and shoulders.
- Slowly come back up to a straight sitting position.
- Repeat the movement three to five more times.
Seated Spinal Twist
The seated spinal twist encourages better spinal flexibility and mobility and good digestion and core strength. Twisting postures help massage the internal organs and relieve lower back discomfort and pain. You often see these types of stretches in practices like Yoga and Pilates.
How to perform spinal twists:
- Sit upright in your chair with your feet flat and parallel to the floor.
- Now, press your lower body down and lengthen your spine as best you can.
- Take a deep breath and slowly, as you exhale, twist toward your right side. Hold onto the chair’s backrest for support.
- Hold for five counts before returning to position.
- Repeat the movement on the other side.
Seated Figure 4 Stretch
The hip muscles can become tight after long hours of sitting. The seated figure 4 stretch is a great way to loosen the muscles in that area and relieve lower back and hip pain. Additionally, it can help improve the flexibility, strength, and mobility of the glutes and piriformis.
How to perform the figure 4 stretch:
- Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet parallel to the ground.
- Take your right leg and place it across your thigh to form a number 4.
- With your right hand, gently push on your right knee, bringing it lower to stretch your hips. Use your left hand to stabilize your ankle.
- Hold this stretch for ten counts.
- Once done, go back to the starting position and repeat the movement on the other side.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
Tight hamstrings can reduce mobility in the pelvis, which can cause pressure to build up in the lower back. Seated hamstring stretches can help prevent hamstring tightness and provide extra support for the back and pelvis by strengthening the muscles around the area.
How to perform a hamstring stretch:
- Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet flat on the floor.
- Keep your back straight by pulling your spine up and pressing your lower body down.
- Straighten your legs out in front of you with your heel on the floor and your toes facing up to the ceiling.
- Bend forward with your hands, holding your right leg for support. Make sure to keep your back engaged to avoid hunching over.
- Hold the pose for five to ten breaths.
- Slowly come back to the starting position and repeat the movement on the other side.
The Bottom Line
It’s important that you take breaks between long hours of sitting to avoid developing conditions that could put your health and safety at risk. Simply taking a five-minute walk around the room after an hour of sitting can do wonders for your spinal health.
If you’re looking for other ideas to help you improve your physical activity, you can check out our article on 5 Exercises/Workouts to Do in an Office Chair.