My patients often ask me, “What’s the worst thing for my back?” Unless they happen to be professional stunt performers, my usual response is, “Sitting poorly for extended periods.”
The truth is, when it comes to the question of whether you’re sitting comfortably, the answer is often a resounding “no,” particularly if you’re sitting for long stretches of time.
The fundamental problem with sitting is that our bodies simply aren’t designed for it. If we look at less developed countries, people tend to sit cross-legged or squat, both of which maintain excellent spinal alignment and distribute about 50% of body weight through the lower back.
Now, compare that with sitting in a soft chair with a slouched posture, which puts a whopping 175% of your body weight on your back. Surprisingly, that’s even more strain than standing, which only places 100% of your weight on your back. So much for getting a break!
I’m not suggesting we all start squatting at work, but by making sure you have a reasonably supportive chair and following the “3 Steps to Proper Sitting,” you can reduce the load on your back by 125%.
So, what are these 3 Steps to Proper Sitting? Here they are:
- Sit as far back in the chair as possible, resting on the two bony parts of your pelvis at the base of your buttocks rather than your tailbone.
- Ensure you have adequate lumbar support, so there’s no room to fit a hand between the back of the chair and your back.
- Relax into the chair and use its back as if you would fall backward if it weren’t there. If the chair doesn’t provide this level of support, it’s time for a replacement!
Remember, our bodies weren’t designed for prolonged sitting. Sitting on squishy sofas for hours on end can be considered “spinal suicide.” So, try to incorporate movement into your day and avoid staying in one position for too long. Take short walks at work, use the stairs instead of the elevator (you’ve probably heard that one before!), or simply get up from your chair to make a cup of tea.
And for a visual demonstration on how to sit properly, Kieran has put together a helpful guide.
Steve Morris is an Osteopath with over 30 years’ experience. He is a specialist in the field of non-surgical treatment of disc conditions, especially sciatica. He uses various different treatment mediums, from hands on osteopathy and acupuncture to the use of mechanical decompression with IDD Therapy, for which he is one of the country’s leading exponents and experts.