My patients often ask me ‘what is the worst thing for my back?’. Unless they are a professional stunt person my usual response is ‘sitting badly for a long time’.
So more often than not the answer to the question of whether you are sitting comfortably is probably ‘no’, especially for long periods of time.
The fundamental problem with sitting is that we are just not designed to sit on our backsides.When looking at less developed countries most people either sit cross legged or squat. Both of these postures maintain very good spinal alignment and put about 50% of your body weight through your lower back.
Compare this with sitting in a soft chair in a slumped posture which puts 175% of your body weight through your back. This is more than standing which puts 100% of your weight through your back, so sitting can put more strain through your back than standing all day. So much for having a rest!!!
I’m not for a minute suggesting that we all start squatting at work but by making sure that you have a reasonably supportive chair and by simply following the Three Steps to Proper Sitting you can reduce the load on your back by 125%.
Ensure that you are following the Three Steps to Proper Sitting by:
- Sitting as far back in the chair as possible. You want to be sitting on the 2 bony parts of your pelvis at the bottom of your buttocks and not your tail bone.
- Using adequate lumbar support, you shouldn’t be able to fit a hand between the back of the chair and your back.
- Relaxing back into the chair, use the back of the chair well as if you would fall off backwards if it was not there. If the chair does not give this amount of support it’s broken so replace it!
- Remember we are not designed to sit. Sitting for long periods in squashy sofas is ‘spinal suicide’ so try to move at least every hour to maintain mobility. Walk around at work, use the stairs rather than a lift (you’ll be used to hearing that one!) or simply leave your chair to make a cup of tea!