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The Truth Behind Lower Back Pain – The Ultimate Back Pain Guide (Part 2)

*** This Post is Part of a Multi-Series on How To Fix Your Back Pain Forever.

For immediate relief, read this post (it actually works).

To Read Part one (Why Cavemen Don’t Have Back Pain) Click Here***

Sitting All Day And Your Back Hurts Like Hell?

Let me guess — you sit all day at work and your back hurts like hell?  Yep, sounds like me too.  In fact, my back pain got so bad that it progressed to neck pain and then eventually insomnia because of the discomfort I was having.

That’s what prompted me to do research (3 years of it) on my back pain and eventually write this ultimate back pain guide.

In the first part I gave a brief introduction to the two things  that pretty much eliminated 95% of my back pain on a daily basis.

I’ve also written a quick and dirty guide to immediate lower back pain relief (using 2 techniques you’ve probably never heard of).

Right now I want to talk about a postural technique that I use every single day at work because it works so well. It’s Esther Gokhale’s Stacksitting.

Table of Awesomeness

  1. Part 1 – How Does Your Back Look Now? (How to Analyze Your Back Posture)
  2. Part 2: Sitting Without Pain (Stacksitting 101)
  3. Problems & Troubleshooting
  4. How-To Video

Watch This How-to Video First

How to Sit All Day With a Pain-Free Back – Stacksitting

Have you ever seen how babies or children sit? That’s what perfect spinal posture looks like.  You often still see it in Asian cultures where sitting on the ground is common even as adults so people never lose the flexibility.

For many of us westerners though… yeah, that’s a problem.

Not only do we lose the flexibility, we lose the good habits we had as flexible kids. So when we go to sit all day in an office chair it’s the same situation — we’re reinforcing bad posture leading us down the road to pain.

Part 1 – How Does Your Back Look Now?

WARNING: If you have any suspicion of a herniated disc, DO NOT TRY THIS EXERCISE because tilting the pelvis has the potential to pinch the disc. 

Did your mother ever tell you sit up straight at the dinner table? As it turns out, that was pretty bad advice…

The key to awesomeness here is instead to get your butt back and slightly rotate your pelvis forward.

That helps the lower back relax, and will align the spine. Now let’s talk about how to do that, because it’s often difficult to do for most of us who are used to tucking the pelvis and being hunched over like cavemen all day.

Step 1: Place a Chair Sideways In Front of The Mirror (So you can see your profile)

Step 2: Sit on the Front of the Chair Away From the Backrest

You want to make sure you are sitting on the edge of the chair. Now I want you to look at your lower back, is is hunched or rounded?

This will be a key indicator and key insight into your posture — if you are unsure, the vast majority of modern “sitters” have a tucked, rounded pelvis and a rounded back. The typical computer neanderthal posture.

Step 3: Look in the Mirror to Assess The Position of Your Pelvis (Which Neanderthal Are You?)

Which one of these looks most like your pelvic posture?

Is it the rounded, C- shaped lower back?

Or is it slightly arched? Chances are, for 99% of you that sit all day, you are hunched over, C-shaped, and rounded

Step 4: Check The Shape of Your Lower Back

So which one of those 4 most looks like your pelvis alignment?

Is it:

  • Straight (ideal)
  • Tucked (rounded lower back, usually with head & shoulders forward and lots of neck & shoulder tension)
  • Severely tucked
  • Overly tipped pelvis (overly arched back) — Usually found in people who overcompensate for hunched shoulders, who are told to “Sit up straight!” by mom.

Step 5: Using Your Fingertips, Check the Spinal Groove in Your Back

Find the middle of your lower back — feel the individual vertebrae of your spine there? Now feel the muscles that are on either side of those vertebrae – is the groove deep or shallow?

Are the ridges on either side like a tightly drawn bow or are they relaxed?

Compare your spine to one of the three following pictures:

A. An ideal back has: a mild groove, embedded bumps (the vertebrae), and soft ridges on either side of the groove.

B. A rounded lower back has: no groove, prominent vertebrae, and subtle or no ridges

C. A swayed lower back has: a deep groove and taut muscle ridges on either side of the groove (because you’re flexing the back muscles). The vertebrae inbetween the muscules are difficult to feel and are mostly hidden.

Now that you have a few key pieces of information, let’s jump into the how-to.

Part 2: Sitting Without Back Pain

Step 1: Place A Wedge (or Pillow) On The Chair

A pillow or wedge will do exactly what your old piano teacher told you — sit up straight.  The point of the wedge is that it helps keep your pelvis angled forward (which is how it should be) and not backward – which will result in slouching and back / neck pain.

Step 2: Bend at Your Hips And Then At Your Knees, Lowering Yourself Onto the Front Edge of the Wedge / Pillow

It’s important that you don’t just sit down on the chair or else you’re gonna mess up your pelvis alignment — so to start, you want to exaggerate this entire movement and stick your butt out while sitting down.

Pretend you’re trying to sit on the toilet and you should re-create the movement perfectly.

Step 3: Slightly Clench Your Stomach & Sit up Straight

This part is important. While you’re slowly sitting up, gently clench your ab muscles and use them to sit up straight and keep your body straightened out.

Many people will overly arch their lower back and then just sit up straight — this is incorrect and you’ll probably end up having a lower back ache after awhile.

Step 4: Perform a Shoulder Roll

Since you’re already sitting up, the last two things are to make sure that your shoulder and neck alignment is okay.

Take one shoulder, and slowly push it forward until it’s as far forward as it can go.

Then slowly rotate it up towards your ear — and then all the way down back. Make sure you aren’t arching your back to try and compensate.

Do the same with the other shoulder, and once they are rotated back, let them relax in that position.

Step 5: Lengthen Your Neck

Gokhale gives a couple recommendations for tips to lengthen the neck:

  • A. Imagine a helium balloon inside your head — release any tension in your neck, and imagine it pulling your head up into the air.
  • B. Grab a clump of your hair at the base of your skull, and gentle pull your head back and up (see image above)
  • C. Grasp the base of your skull with both hands and gently pull upward while lowering your shoulders
  • D. Place an object on your head (like a towel — or imagine it), and push up against it

Problems / Troubleshooting

I’m slumped over still”

If you still feel like your shoulders are hunched over, you didn’t tip your pelvis far enough forward.  Briefly sit forward again, and try getting your butt a bit higher up on the pillow or wedge.  Then slightly clench your abs as you sit up so you maintain a straight spine.

You can also literally even pull your butt cheeks out, farther up on the cushion.

My lower back is really arched and is starting to hurt”

You overtipped your pelvis, you probably now have an overly arched lower back.  You can fix that by sitting forward a bit to the left, then slightly pulling the right butt cheek forward. And then doing the same with the left side.

Watch the Video Again to Confirm You Did it Right

Next in the Series: How to Sleep Like a Drunk Baby (Even if Your Back Hurts)

This technique (stacksitting) in combination with the first technique I described in part 1  literally saved my life because I sit for 60+ hours a week.

Since using this technique for my back pain, nothing before or after has come even close to working better on a daily basis. Hence it’s one of the most important habits I’ve engrained into my daily behavior. 

Go ahead and check out the next article in the series: Back Pain When Sleeping.

P.S. *** Incase you missed part 1 (which is critical to preventing chronic back pain), read it here.

Let me know how it goes for you!



Images: Massage

Have You Read My New Book Yet?

  Read more about this in my book Master The Day. You’ll learn the nine daily success habits I learned interviewing people that lost 100+ pounds and kept it off in a healthy way – by changing their habits. Plus, you’ll get a free $100 bonus video course if you show me your receipt. You can get the audiobook here too.

7 comments… add one

  1. Since reading all of this and paying attention to “Computer” or “Desk” posture, my back pain is easing up quite a bit.
    Along those lines, I just wanted to add that chairs with arms are real big culprits in the mix that no one notices.

    As an IT guy, I work with a hundred or so people in every nook and cranny in the building.
    The one thing I notice with many people is that they come in asking for short strips of black gaffer’s tape. Why, because the front on nearly every chair’s arms hit the desk they sit at! Every chair in the office has the front of the chair’s arm worn through showing foam and the metal support!

    That means, they are trying to get closer to the desk they sit at but can’t because the chair’s arm height aren’t adjusted properly. So they are forced to sit further away from their desk. Not a big deal you say?

    I am continually raising or lowering the arms on my own office chair so I can get my gut to touch the desk. When I’m forced to have the chairs arms keep me away from the table is when I notice myself slouching the most.

    If I can get my belly/chest to touch the table and let my arms rest on the table , my shoulders tend to drop and I sit up straight far more often and the result is far less back pain!

    Try this for yourself as part of sitting correctly in a chair, it really does help to get closer to your desk and your back will thank you!

    Also if possible, get a chair that will allow you to lock the chair in an upright position rather than tilting backwards. Those tilting chairs are hard on your back as you can never get back support if the back of the chair tilts back at a 45 degree angle!

    1. Hey Tom,

      Awesome, I’m glad you’re seeing some improvements.

      Aha! Great observation that people are constantly trying to get closer to the computer. So you’re saying they naturally end up hunching over and sticking their head out to see the computer screen better? I find myself doing that a lot too.

      100% agree on locking your chair upright too. I have one that reclines and I always find it messing up my posture by itself.


  2. Hi,
    You are stealing the pictures from Esther Gokhale book. I’ve sent her a message too.

    1. Hi Tibor,

      What’s with the hostility? FYI It says “from Esther Gokhale’s book 8 steps…” at the bottom of the article.

      Just trying to help. I’ve also generated thousands of sales of Esther’s book for her because It has helped me, and I know it will help many others so I gladly recommend it in every conversation.


  3. Thanks for the great back advice. I’ve read Gokhale’s book and I have been working on sitting properly when I work on the computer. I just found your webpages and I am hopeful your advice will help. I am 44 and used to be a sporty person, but in the last year my back pain has been so bad I have not been able to do much physically except walk short distances. I can see I am improving although slowly. I am trying to avoid surgery. Thanks for the helpful advice you have put out there.

    1. Let me know how it goes Carrie 🙂

  4. I have back because at work a chair broke on me. That was in 2007 than in 2014 I was standing in a sticky place on the floor I was unaware I went to walk away from the station I was standing at and Feel. It too 1 month and now my pain in my back is Almost unbearable. So I was wondering would theae exercises work for me.


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