5 Tips & exercises to help your back pain while at work. #4: Hug

Sherwin Nicholson | Updated Dec 3, 2020

Continued from Tip & exercise #3: Kickstand

No. Not your coworkers. YOUR THIGHS!

By now, you’ve got yourself sitting like a pianist, standing to squat more, using the kickstand when you need that extra support in the chair.

Now give yourself a big hug.  Actually, just your thigh.

There is one area of your lower body that becomes progressively worse with sitting.  There is NO avoiding it.

Even the best sitting arrangements can’t prevent this problem.

Sitting shuts down the most important muscle groups needed to support your back: your gluteus muscle.

Now that we are all sitting at home more due to the pandemic, this important stretch will definitely be a must to avoid becoming tighter and risking increased back pain.

When you sit on them, they lose circulation, become weaker, tighter and sometimes numb.  The worst symptoms of this condition is when your feel pins and needles exiting from your spine and traveling down the legs.  This is known as sciatic pain and also can be experienced as piriformis syndrome.  Both are serious and sitting makes both conditions very painful.

You can get up, stand, walk, exercise more, massage etc. but you really need to stretch your glutes to prevent your back pain from becoming worse.

How to safely hug your thigh

It’s pretty straightforward but there are some precautions you must take.

If you have no symptoms of discomfort, then hug away as seen in the photo.  There is not much more to know.  You’ll even find it easier to focus at work because you’ll feel more comfortable.


If the boss asks why? Say ‘It helps you work more productively!’

However, you are likely on this site because your back hurts a lot at work.  Don’t just hug without learning these following tips.

  1. Keep your spine straight
  2. Use the support of the chair or not (either is fine)
  3. Keep your pelvis steady
  4. Tighten your abdominals
  5. Slowly bring your knee up and to the side using your arms and hands
  6. Stop when you feel the slightest pull
  7. Hold
  8. Count to 20-30 seconds. Rest your leg down
  9. Repeat with the other thigh

Don’t force anything here.

You don’t have to match the full position in the above photo right away.

Pulling on your thigh may increase your posterior pelvic tilt.  Try to not allow this to happen.

You want to feel a gentle strain just under your buttock. This is where most of the muscle lengthening will happen.

If it feels as though you are barely raising your thigh, that’s OK. You’ll get better every day.  You’re just getting started. The ideal goal is to be able to hug the thigh to your chest.

This is the ultimate goal so only practice in very small increments daily.

external rotators stretch

Learn this exercise in more detail here.

Do you feel pins and needles?

You either have sciatica or piriformis syndrome.  In either case the hug will help you if you do it right. Too much hugging will make it feel worse.

The point of the hug is to lengthen your glute/butt muscles.  When they tighten up, they pull on the lumbar spine. This is every time your walk, run, jump etc.  That’s too much pulling.  This can injure your discs and your spinal nerve roots.  When this happens, you can get sciatica as the sciatic nerve get very irritated.

Tight glutes leads to a tight piriformis muscle which puts pressure on that same sciatic nerve as it passes through the pirformis muscle.

Be careful with the hug

You want to gradually and carefully hug because you are also pulling on this nerve.  Unfortunately, it’s a necessary evil.  There will be some soreness because of this.  But eventually, your glutes and piriformis muscle will become long enough to no longer affect this nerve and hurt you.  The same muscles will pull LESS on your spine and pelvis when you’re active and will not irritate your discs and nerves as often.

Start slowly with very slight increments for only a few seconds at a time.  This muscle group (just like many others) takes a long time to release and lengthen.

If there was an alternative to the Hug, I would definitely use it. But it is one of the best stretches for you at work.

By now, you have learned 4 vital tips & exercises that will help relieve your back pain.  Best of all, you can do them at work too! If you just do these 4, you’ll be set.

There is however, one more to go!

Begin Tip & Exercise #5: Break

For even more help:

Relieve your tight hip flexors to relieve the pain

Mistake we make that hurt the back

Avoid leaning to protect your spine

Do you have pins and needles down your leg?