Why Does My Back Hurt?

Back pain is a big problem. Up to 60% of adults in the UK can expect to experience a bout at some point in their lifetime, according to the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. What's going on? It turns out the way you sit can play a big part, so sit up and take note of Dr Nick Knight’s tips to help banish back pain when sitting at a desk.

About our expert
About our expert
Dr Nick Knight

Dr Nick Knight is a doctor in a London hospital, with a degree in exercise and sports sciences and a PhD in human performance. Dr Knight has trained a four-man crew to row 5,000km across the Indian Ocean and has carried out medical research at Mount Everest Base Camp.

“Sitting in a chair for a long period of time can wreak havoc on the 33 bones that make up your spinal column,” says Knight. “And of course around the spine there are lots of complex ligaments and muscles that are all designed to support our posture.” 

So what can you do to make your posture better when you're in a chair? “Make sure that your feet are planted firmly on the ground and your bottom is shoved right into the back of the seat,” says Knight. “When you look at your screen, you want to make sure that it's actually eye height – you’re not looking up or down. 

“Also, make sure that your desk isn’t too low, so when you rest your arms on it your shoulders are slightly raised. This takes the pressure off your shoulders, which stops some of the muscles from tensing up.” 

And finally, Knight advises us to stand up, stretch our backs and have a walk around every 20 minutes. “It takes you away from that static seated posture, and that will help your back no end.”

Dr Knight’s Tips For Sitting At A Desk

  1. Sit with your feet planted firmly on the floor.
  2. Rest your arms on the desk so your shoulders are slightly raised.
  3. Shove your bottom into the back of your seat.
  4. Make sure your screen is at eye level.
  5. Get up and stretch your back every 20 minutes.

Dr Knight has dispensed concise advice on all kinds of medical topics you may be wondering about. He’s explained the difference between a strain and a sprain and enlightened us on how to stop snoring. Struggling to nod off at night? His top sleep tips will help you get the best possible night’s sleep.

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Sam Razvi wrote for Men’s Fitness UK (which predated and then shared a website with Coach) between 2011 and 2016.