I am a student and I usually have to sit at my study desk each day including weekdays and weekends for about 13 hours or more. I have a pretty hectic schedule and I sometimes suffer from back pain (lower back and shoulders) which can be help severe and also affects my studies.

I am looking for any piece of advice that you can offer me to ease this problem of mine.

Anything like various exercises, postures, devices, things to take care about before it gets too late or something that might ease the pain.

Please please help.

  • 2
    standing desk might be a good idea
    – Abundance
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 18:15
  • 31
    Honestly, you'll get better performance from your studies studying less. One's productivity on mental work falls sharply after six, seven hours. My academic performance shot up almost 20% after I reduced my study time to four hours a day, following a nervous breakdown. YMMV, but watch your brain's health too =)
    – T. Sar
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 18:58
  • 1
    @T.Sar These are mad times we live in. I'm from India and when you are preparing for a paper where about 1.3 million sit for each year and your target is to get a rank under 300 among them , 6 hours simply ain't gonna do.
    – user31345
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 19:18
  • 24
    @user232243 Beliefs aren't going to change your biology. If working like a madman for 13 hours worked to get science done, India would be far, far ahead than it is right now. Keep that in mind. There is a huge difference between studiying a lot and studying properly.
    – T. Sar
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 19:53
  • 3
    @user232243 Check this out
    – T. Sar
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 19:55

15 Answers 15


I am a programmer myself and often spend about 10-13 hours a day in a chair and had similar problems.

My solution - a full body 20 minute workout everyday, with emphasis on more 'active' physical activities for your back and legs. For example - no bench exercises - do a lot of reps of bur-pees, dead-lifts, upper push ups with lightweight dumbbells, and pull ups. Do a lot of core work - bicycle, plank - everything, that makes your body 'curl up'. Don't rest more than 30 secs. Take a look at cross-fit exercises. Be more active. Go for 15 min walks between your study activities.

All of the above mentioned will take no more than 30 mins each a day, but it will help you to get rid of your back pain.

Check it out https://wodtimecalculator.com/blog/201-crossfit-workouts-can-home-pdf/

  • 2
    In addition to pull ups, I have found simply hanging from a bar for a few dozen seconds to be quite helpful for my back.
    – rurp
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 18:22

First you need to realise that sitting all the time is not just bad for your back, but also bad for your learning. Break the learning into chunks of about 20min. Use the breaks for exercise.

This should actually help you with learning, so don't even get the idea that you have to add the "lost time" at the end.

Depending on your current fitness level a range of exercises might fit but I'm going to assume that you are rather unfit given the schedule you describe.

I'd start with getting one of these big exercise balls.

Balance on it on your knees and hands. If you can hold that stable stretch one hand or foot out at a time and hold for 10s at a time If you can do that stretch out a foot and the diagonal opposed hand and hold again.

If you can do that get a body weight fitness app that allows to do and track single exercises. I like Freeletics but there are tons out there. The free version of Freeletics should be fine so this doesn't have to cost money assuming you have a smart phone. Do one exercise each break and you'll see a tremendous change including less back problems.

Additonaly consider a standing table. And an instable chair which forces you to balance your body yourself instead of slouching in a comfy chair.

Finally possibly the hardest part: Stop studying 13 hours a day. A brain needs rest to learn. Limit yourself to 8h a day weekends off. Or you will hate yourself in 1 or 2 decades.

  • This is temporary , Only one year more. I am a bit fat. I do a bit of excercise like skipping rope, using weights, planks , and crunches, and a few more.
    – user31345
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 19:32
  • Can you please explain what you meant by the part " Or you will hate yourself in 1 or 2 decades "
    – user31345
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 19:32
  • 7
    Working too much and not getting enough rest cause severe mental and physiological health problems over time. Once the problems build up it is really hard to get rid of them again. Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 4:49

I'm a web developer, and I have to work for more than 10 hours a day. So in my opinion the best thing to do for any desk job or long periods of studying is taking small breaks, like 5 minutes every 1 hour or so to do some dynamic stretching or moving in general.

For example in my case, I take a quick walk arround, a little stretching especially for my back, shoulders & legs, and even climbing the stairs for about 1 minute and I'm back again.


Yoga's cat pose is perfect for this. 2 minutes of it before going to sleep. And then 2 minutes of extended cat's pose with stretching opposing arm and leg.

Another exercise is pull-ups (or just hang from something by your hands), letting the weight of your lower body to stretch the space between the lumbar discs in your lower spine. Rotate and wiggle a bit. Just few minutes a day is enough.

5 yoga poses for lower back pain. Supine spinal twist is especially helpful to relieve the pain. Try different position of leg (slightly bent, fully bent) as the bent changes the curve of lower back (affects different lumbar discs). For a bonus point, do it while floating in a a swimming pool.

Start with supine spinal twist to relieve the pain immediately, and keep doing cat's pose for few minutes before sleep to maintain the pain-free spine.

Of course, doing all those other exercises suggested in the other answers is even better for your body, but you have no excuse not to spend 5 minutes for simple exercises. :-)

Your pain will go away, and you may forget doing the poses - and the pain will remind you to do them again.

Be careful which exercises you are doing: some exercises (like skipping a rope, jogging) will increase the pressure between lumbar discs, especially if you are (as you said elsewhere) overweight.

Source: personal experience, programmer doing cat's pose before sleep for many years now.

  • @user232243 - I added supine spinal twist - start with it, it will relieve the pain quickly. Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 14:20
  • Well actually I do skip rope, because I want to decrease weight, what excercise should I do then...
    – user31345
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 15:24
  • @user232243 - Books can (and have) be written about how to lose weight (and many questions here). In general, keep your metabolism up, (so keep skipping the rope, or do any exercise you like, if you don't have back pain) but key is to eat less. Don't aim to lose more than 1-2 pounds per month: When people lose weight fast ("Biggest loser" show style), their base metabolic rate decreases (so they almost all gain most of the lost weight). As a vegetarian, it is easier to find food which makes you satiated and has less calories. Do more research to find a way which fits your lifestyle. Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 17:33
  • I am curious why all the downvotes? Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 13:58

This article from Business Insider talks about a study that concluded that 52 minutes of work followed by a 17 minute break was the work cadence that the participants' best employees used.

You can use whatever cadence you like, but the core principle -- from both a physical and mental fitness perspective -- is to get up and move every hour. If that's a 15 minute walk around the block, great! If it's 30 seconds of jumping jacks, it'll do. But whatever you do, take an hourly break and move your body around during that break!


Walk! You can think at least as well walking as sitting down. Read for some time then take a break and walk and think about what you read. Walking is good for your brain. The increased blood flow transport more energy and materials for repairs to the brain. Walking is low impact and you can do a lot of it without hurting yourself. Walking is also good for your back.


You want a standing desk. Starting at about $150.

You should aim to put those sitting hours below 8, not for your back but for general health, and it (probably) won't make your back pain worse.


According to WorkSafe Queensland, the government office responsible for regulating Workplace Health and Safety in the Australian state of Queensland, the following advice is given on how to set up the ergonomics of a computer workstation to prevent workplace injuries like the ones you're currently experiencing:

An acceptable and well supported seated position means:

  • sitting with the body close to the desk
  • the head and neck are in a forward facing and midline position (i.e. no backward arching of the neck or forward extension of the chin)
  • the shoulders are relaxed and symmetrical and elbows slightly closer to the side of the body
  • using the preferred keying posture, depending on the style of keying used (i.e. traditional style or with forearm support – see ‘Preferred keying set styles’ on page 9 of this guide)
  • the back is supported by the chair backrest. The curved lower part of the backrest should fit into the lower back or the lumbar curve
  • having an open angle of 100-120 degrees (slightly more than a right angle) at the hip. This can be achieved by adjusting the seat pan tilt and the backrest
  • having knees at a height lower or level with the hips
  • ensuring a gap of 2-3 finger widths between the front of the chair and the back of the knees
  • having feet flat on the floor or footrest.

While the regulations in question likely wouldn't legally apply to your university, they do represent Best Practice on how to go about setting up an office workstation. The document I linked to above goes into more detail on how to set up the individual pieces of equipment like monitors, keyboards, or mice, and also includes recommendations on how to go about changing your posture during the day. They also have a Sedentary Work Factsheet that includes suggestions you might find relevant, as well.


A standing desk is great but if you want to go study at the library then as others have suggested don't just study more than a few hours at a time. Break your day up with classes, lunch, and most importantly exercise. In college I used to exercise every day around 5 to 6pm. This allowed me to get an early dinner, rest a bit, go play some basketball or lift weights, shower, then head to the library were I'd study from 7-11pm. I studied a lot but made it work. I was able to get in at least 10 hours of studying a day along with classes and also keep my mental sanity this way and avoid any back pain. Sitting is not good for our health. Humans were not built to just sit all the time. In our day and age it's become the norm but not too long ago our ancestors were farmers and spent a lot of their time outdoors, so remember to take frequent back breaks or your back will literally break on you and so will your health.


Can you study using the "pomodoro" technique? This means WORK for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. During your break, stand, do some of the exercises others have listed. Also, make sure to look at something in the distance to vary your eyes' focal point.

It cuts down your 13 hours from 780 minutes to 650 minutes, but you will probably be able to stay more focused during the desk-time.

Wikipedia has more information about the history of it and more complex iterations (short vs. long breaks.). This is a simple web-timer you can use: https://tomato-timer.com/


For a long time in my life I used to have back problems because of, what I thought at that time (because everyone was telling so), too much sitting.

I was very surprised to learn from an enlightening experience (won't delve into details for brevity) that back pain is not because of too much sitting, it's because torso and in particular back muscles are weak. Of course they are also weak because of sitting around and not getting exercised, but the sitting is not the immediate reason for the pain.

If torso/back muscles are weak, they can't or at least don't keep the spine in a posture that is good for it over several hours. The deviation from a natural and healthy alignment of the vertebrae is what you feel as pain sooner or later and it can also go into serious medical conditions such as herniated discs.

The remedy/prophylaxis is strengthening the muscles. It's as simple as that in most cases (of course I can't give medical advice or advice for everyone here. Please consult your doctor to be sure.). Plain muscle workout (with a focus on strength) is perfect from my experience. It doesn't take more than 5 minutes a day if you need it quick and is very effective. I still do it every day and my back feels great even though I sit 13+ hours a day.

I use an expander for my workout. What I realized to be the most effective exercise is to extend it in (almost) vertical direction in front of the chest with both arms being stretched out all the time. So the expander is far from the chest and then comes to touch the chest. Of course both hands should be the upper one for a while. It's important to move slowly.

If you do that exercise until exhaustion of the muscles every day (Expander can be set really strong to lead to exhaustion faster, about 60 seconds per exercise are good. Don't make it too strong though or you risk injuries.), I guess you'll be pain-free in about a week.

Update: It should be added that everything said also depends on your weight. If you're overweight, reducing that is also a strong piece of advice of mine. The less your weight, the less effort is needed to keep your spine straight.


Lower Back

Having suffered severe sciatica to the point where I could only sleep on the floor and started dragging a foot, I can attest to Peter M's main point: get your spine moving.

Cobra pose is also a really good one for this problem. You can actually read and work on a laptop while on the floor in a similar position using your elbows to support your upper body.

The key is to stretch the lower spine backwards and open the spaces between the vertebrae. Curving forward squeezes the discs in the lower spine and can push them out of place and put pressure on nerves. One big mistake I was making was trying to do stretches where I leaned forward attempting to touch my toes without keeping the lower back flat. This can greatly exacerbate the problem.

The next step is to improve strength in your transverse abdominal muscle. If you are like me, you were never taught about the existence of these really important muscles. As far as I knew, 'the abs' were the 'six-pack' vanity muscles in the front which you work by doing crunches. The transverse abdominal muscles are far more important. When tight, they hold your guts in and can help take pressure off of your spine.

Imagine a basic round balloon that has a string inside of it that's attached at the top to the tied end from the the top running through the middle. When you squeeze the balloon, it lengthens and the string will be pulled taut. Here's an extremely professional diagram:


When you tighten your transverse abdominal muscles, your abdomen is like the balloon and your spine is like the string. In this way, you can relieve pressure on the spine while sitting and standing. This is sometimes called "holding your 'stomach' in" and for some reason there's a negative connotation to doing this. Hold your 'stomach' in as much as possible: your back will thank you. It also has the benefit of making your actual stomach smaller which helps reduce appetite and overeating.

There are various ways to strengthen the transverse abdominal muscles. Planks are my preference. There are lots of ways to do these just getting into a push up position and holding it is a good start. Crunches and sit-ups will not help at all with this and I would avoid doing these at all if you have back pain.


Pain in the shoulders often (unintuitively) originates from the chest. The problem is that we sit with our shoulders forward all the time. We typically don't exercise the complex set of muscles that pull the shoulders back. We then end up with weak back muscles trying to fight against strong chest muscles. If you do push-ups or other chest-strengthening exercises, you need to also train your back muscles such as with pulls.

A good stretch for relief is to stand is a doorway with your palms on the frame. Lean in gently until you feel a stretch in your chest. Try different arm positions as there are various muscles in the chest. Swinging the arms backwards to attempt to clap the hands behind the back is a nice active stretch (check the space around you.)

Good luck in your studies and resolving this problem. I hope this advice helps.


I can recommend something very simple: Try to do a handstand from time to time against a wall. Try to simply hold the handstand as long as possible. I usually do this once a day, three times in a row with some rest between each handstand. It really helps against back and neck pain. See also


What worked for me

I've had back pain throughout school, university and work for a year. Then, I started running, the pain eased. Then I started lifting, the pain stopped.

No gym machines or any of that isolation machines, just simple full body workouts (deadlifts, squats, chin-ups cause pull-ups were too hard). Within 3 months of 3 workouts a week I hurt less and in 4-5 months I didn't hurt any more. Running helped as well (completed a half marathon last year and doing another in a month)

It's counter-intuitive, that full body will ease your pain since you put more stress on your back, but it works.


  • Stretches that mobilize your back
    • Google is your friend
  • Take a brake every 30 minutes or every hour for 1 minute and walk or stretch. Go for a coffee whatever, just MOVE
  • Buy a better chair
    • Knee chair (kneeler)
    • Yoga ball
  • Start exercising every day. Every day. 1 hour, 30 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes. Doesn't matter just do it.
    • Run
    • Cycle
    • Hike
    • Weight lift
    • Football
    • Basketball
    • Volleyball
    • Tennis
    • Batminton

I would recommend practicing 10-20min+ core workouts about 4+ days a week. Bodyweight alone with an app is fine, starting at the very beginner is perfectly ok too - consistent practice of any kind of core is fantastic for reducing back issues in most cases. The core is often the culprit of man back problems but also tossing in some upper body/back/shoulder/neck exercises will help a lot as well.

For weights, I recommend doing about half your maximum so you get can a good 10-20 reps in each set and try to aim for 4-6 sets. Do about 2-3 (or more) of different weight exercises (especially maybe just 2 in the beginning) and you'll have about a month of onset soreness but eventually a lot more strength and stability after this initial early acclimation begins to subside.

For the back, doing weight lifts or weight machines that involve pulling weight towards your chest/shoulders/stomach are some good rules of thumb for the back - but practicing keeping the chest flexed out/shoulders back throughout the lifting and mentally putting effort into the back in important. When there's a great struggle/shaking/inability to go further in the beginning, ease off to prevent injury and lower the weight one increment.

Consistency will help strengthen the back and core. For core, I really enjoy the 30 Days Fitness app's Core section with various 30-Day levels to conquer (also many other focuses on the body). Pay attention to the pain throughout the process, heavy soreness and stiffness is normal in the beginning but any strong pinching, razor sharp, burning, needles, etc are not normal for recovery and should be checked out by a specialist for sure. The mental boost usually takes a week or two to kick in from weights, that'll provide a nice confidence/emotional/comfort boost too. Everyone's body is different, we must do only what is sustainable and healthy for progress.