The Best Way to Sit At Your Desk (And Stay Out of Pain)

proper sitting posture

Back, neck and shoulder pain caused by sitting at a desk is an incredibly common cause of stress and fatigue among working Americans. If you work in an office and spend your day sitting on a chair behind a desk, then you absolutely know how it feels!

Going home everyday feeling exhausted and drained can be a familiar dilemma. Your job might not require you to lift heavy objects but sitting in a static position with an incorrect posture can tire you out just the same – not to mention the damage it can cause to your spinal structure.

But, we’ll tell you right now that a lot of the pain or fatigue you experience can be avoided. All we have to do is understand where the issues are coming from and then make the appropriate tweaks so you can sit more optimally.

The Problem

Slouching forward and down while sitting is the common tendency for most people – especially when working long hours. This causes the spinal ligaments to overstretch, which strains the spine.

This might seem harmless at first but as time goes by, you’re almost certainly going to experience pain and fatigue. However, there’s definitely something you can do to avoid this and reverse the effects of poor sitting posture.

(Also check out our post on the basics of workplace ergonomics. Lots of great tips from McHenry Chiropractor Dr. Casey in that one.)

The Solution: Practice the Proper Sitting Posture

There’s actually a lot that goes into sitting properly. Dr. Casey lays out some great tips in this video (click here) and we cover more below.

The issue is that it’s hard to have great sitting posture if your chair isn’t supporting you correctly. And that’s what the tips below go into.

Once you get familiar with the proper sitting posture and learn how to use your chair properly, you will have the awareness to correct yourself when you slouch. With enough practice, you can definitely make it your new normal.

This video from Dr. Casey demonstrates everything from the article

Here are 4 Ways To Customize Your Chair To Get Rid of Back Pain

#1 Maintain a comfortable distance: Much of the tension on your back is caused by overreaching towards your desk, keyboard and mouse. A simple solution to is to get a little closer and maintain the right distance. If you are using a rolling chair, make sure to stay in place so as to be comfortably close to your desk.

#2 Ensure proper arm support: The armrest of your chair plays an important role in keeping a proper sitting posture. Your elbows should be at a slightly more than 90-degree angle. Again, avoid overreaching.

Observe that when you slouch, you are putting much of your weight on your back instead of having your arms as support. If you have a chair with adjustable armrests, play with them until you get the proper alignment. Customize depending on your height and comfort.

#3 Adjust the height of the chair: Your knees should be roughly at the same height or a little bit lower than your hips. Most office chairs have a way to adjust the height so play around until you find a height that it comfortable for both your knees and forearms.

#4 Get the right lumbar support: Many office chairs have some sort of built in lumbar support and you’ll want to make use of it.

Lumbar refers to the lower back. Desk chair ergonomics will have the ears, shoulders and hips aligned so as to relieve pressure and weight from the lumbar portion. Recline the back of the chair to about 100 to 110 degrees. Keep your hips far back in the chair so your lumbar can be fully supported. You want to maintain the three normal curves of the spine.

When your lumbar support is too high, it makes you lean forward and slouch – causing you to feel fatigued. When it’s too low, it forces you to hyper-extend your back – resulting to back pain. Position the adjustable lumbar support just above the belt line. The goal is to keep the natural curvature of the spine.

If your chair doesn’t have a built-in lumbar support, a nice trick is to use a thick throw pillow instead.

After knowing about the proper sitting posture and customizing your office seat, here are 4 more tips to help you avoid back pain while working:

#1 Don’t skip your daily stretching.

You are in a static sitting position so much daily. Show your muscles some love by stretching them out before starting a long day at work. Also, try to get in a quick stretching session every 30-60 minutes while at your desk – even if you just stand up and touch your toes a couple times or do a gentle back bend. This also helps blood to circulate better.

#2 Avoid crossing your legs.

Crossing your legs puts a lot of pressure on your pelvis and lower back. Over time, it may cause chronic issues. Avoid this by keeping your feet flat on the floor.

#3 Never cradle the phone.

You may have unconsciously formed the habit of cradling the phone between your shoulders and ears. This strains your upper back and neck. As an alternative, use a hands-free headset.

#4 Pay attention to your breathing.

Breathing from your belly (also called diaphragmatic breathing) relieves the whole body from pressure. Relax your upper body by drawing your navel towards your spine each time you inhale. (You can learn more about diaphragmatic breathing here)


There are enough things to stress about at work and life in general. Let’s not make your sitting posture one of them!

By simply following the tips in this article, you will start feeling more relaxed as your work and more energized when it’s time to leave the office.

{Note: This content is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your healthcare provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that have read on this blog or in any linked materials.}
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Evolve Chiropractic is leading the way for modern, evidence-based chiropractic care.  With 17 locations through Chicagoland and Northern Illinois, we have become the go-to solution for headache relief, neck & back pain and overall spinal health.

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