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How do I use a lumbar roll for BACK PAIN!

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

We have all seen other work colleges sitting with this D-shaped pillow behind their back and wondered what exactly is it doing and how is it supposed to be used. Others have probably been given one and told to use it without any explanation of how to use it correctly and why it may help my back.

Currently, it is thought that 80% of Australians will experience back pain at one stage of their lives. Of this 80%, 10% of this group have significant disability as a result (Biggs & Buchbinder 2009). The discs in our spine are fluid filled sacs which act like mini shock absorbers which help protect our spine throughout the day. As we are all aware, we tend to be shorter at the end of the day compared to the morning. This loss in height during the day which can be up to 2cm is as a result of the fluid loss from the disc. Discs lose fluid throughout the day when placed under constant pressure. Interestingly it has been found that lifting objects, bending down to the floor and slumped sitting can increase disc pressure by up to double compared to the pressure placed on a neutral spine. This increase in pressure can increase the speed and amount of fluid loss from the disc putting the spine at greater risk of injury.

Unfortunately in the world that we live in sitting for extended periods of time is inevitable. As many of you have read previously, to combat the effects of sitting it is important to change your position regularly and utilise standing desks where possible. Unfortunately, this cannot always be achieved. So what can be done? It is vital to maintaining the natural curve of your spine when sitting. Maintaining this ideal posture is tough when we become engrossed in work and don’t realise the position we are in until it is too late. Our lack of awareness to the postures that we find ourselves in is why we need to utilise our workstation and in particular our chair.

The development of lumbar support in cars and desk chairs has come a long way over the years. Unfortunately they cannot cater specifically for everyone’s needs as our body makeups are so unique. You have to keep in mind that the modern chair and cars try to cater for those who are over 6 foot tall and those who are under 5 foot tall. Understandably there are going to be occasions when a chair does not suit our needs. When your chair does not suit your needs, you can utilise a lumbar roll to customise your chair. Using three simple principles, we can ensure we are unable to slump when sitting.

1) Have your pelvis as far back in the chair as possible

2) Have your feet flat on the ground

3) Place the lumbar roll just above your belt line

In summary:

1) Maintain a neutral spine where possible

2) Change your position regularly during the day as able

3) If your chair is not optimal for you utilise a lumbar roll using the three above principles


Biggs, AM & Buchbinder, R 2009, ‘Back pain: a National Health Priority Area in Australia’, Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 190, no. 9, pp. 499-502, viewed 11 August 2016, <>.

Written By:

Tim Delvins

Body Fit Physiotherapy North Adelaide

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