Is Work Becoming a Pain in the Butt? (Literally)

I recently worked with a client who complained of common computer related aches and pains.  Sore neck and shoulders, on and off wrist pain and then she looked down and looked embarrassed for a moment until she finally blurted out:

“And I have this pain in my butt that is getting worse by the day.”

“So you mean work has become a pain in the butt?”

She laughed and agreed that indeed it was.  Well, turns out she is far from alone.  There are thousands and thousands of people who just like you and I, who sit throughout most of their day.  Think about it, we eat sitting, commute to work usually in a car, bus or train which means more sitting.  Then we sit at our desks.  We sit in conference rooms.  We commute home, eat again, sit on the couch and read or watch TV.  In fact, did you know that we typically sit upwards to 15 hours per day?

Aside of the fact that recent studies show a growing correlation between prolonged sitting and health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, weight gain, increased cholesterol and even cancer, prolonged sitting can cause pain in your lower back, hip, thigh and butt.  It can cause a wide range of musculo-skeletal problems such as Sciatica (compression of your sciatica nerve which can cause pain in your leg, buttocks, and lower back), Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction (the joint found between your sacral bone at the base of your spine and your pelvic bone) and tight hamstring muscles which can cause tightness and pain.

What Can You Do?

Sitting alone is not necessarily the sole cause of problems, but rather the way you sit, what you are sitting on, how long you sit for at a stretch (no pun intended) and your overall fitness level all play into your comfort levels.  So let’s look at these a bit more closely.

  • Think of Your Chair as Your Throne: You are after all the King or Queen of your work area rococo armchairright?  So, make sure your chair fits you well, has a seat pan that isn’t too hard (not good for compression), and that allows for 2-4 inches of clearance between the edge of the seat pan and the back of your knee.
  • Sit at the Right Height: For starters, make sure that your seat height allows your hips to be level or slightly higher than your knees.  Make sure your feet are firmly planted on the floor or a foot rest.  Avoid crossing your legs as this can throw your pelvis and spine out of whack and put too much weight on the side of your tush that is bearing the weight.
  • Sit Up and Take Notice: Slumping, slouching and low riding in your chair can wreak havoc on your back, legs and butt, especially if you sit throughout the day like this and do this day after day.  Instead, make sure your set up promotes healthy posture (Read more about healthy posture)
  • Stand Up: For some people, switching to a sit/stand station and alternating between sitting and standing while working is a great way to work.  But it’s not necessarily for everyone.  And if you elect to sit or you can’t convert to a sit/stand station, no worries.  (Check out our Sit/Stand post.) There are plenty of ways to get up through out the day.  You can stand while reading e-mails or talking on the phone.  Set a timer and take a 30 – 60 second stretch break.  Drink A LOT of water (need I say more?)
  • Exercise and Stretch: The more toned and flexible your muscles are, the better.  Yoga is a GREAT way to combat leg and butt pain.  But there are many other stretches and exercises that can help.   Below is a great seated stretch that can do wonders for you when work becomes a literal pain in the butt!


Let me know what you do when work becomes a pain and what you do to make it better by leaving a comment below, or if you have a question about how to get relief, post it in the comments and we’ll get back to you with recommendations!

Until the next time!





  • Louise
    Posted at 04:33h, 29 May Reply

    I get pain in the pelvic bones where they rest against the seat pan of my office chair. Sometimes it only takes an hour of sitting before it starts to ache. I’ve tried adjusting my chair in all sorts of ways, but there is no way to limit the pressure on these bones or their contact with the chair. What can I do about this?

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