Excerpt from Chiropractic Wellness Magazine Articles
Written by: Dr. Suzanne Osborne
The human body was designed to move, not made to sit for prolonged periods of time. While sitting, there is more weight bearing pressure on the discs in the lower back than there is while standing or walking.
When the body is in a reclining position, however, the weight bearing pressure is distributed more evenly throughout the spine. For this reason, people with disc problems often find it more comfortable to sit in a recliner or lie down.
Sitting is an inevitable part of today’s lifestyle, however. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to lessen its detrimental effects. For example, while driving in a car or sitting for extended periods of time, be sure to maintain the lumbar curve of the spine by placing a pillow or lumbar support behind your back.
When driving, sit fairly close to the wheel with your knees bent. On long trips take a little time to get out and walk around. It is much better to spend a few minutes stretching, than to spend weeks or months suffering with back pain.
Avoid slouching. Sit straight and keep your feet flat on the floor. Try to stand up and walk around whenever possible, even if it is just for a few minutes. The more you sit, the more you should walk to help counteract the negative effects of immobility on your spinal column.
Q. My job involves sitting at a desk eight to ten hours a day. What can I do to make it more comfortable and safe?
A. The most important thing that anyone who has to sit for such long periods of time should do is to always try to offset this inactivity with adequate amounts of exercise so that the body can function more efficiently.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to take some of the risks out of an office job. Whenever possible, position yourself so that you are looking straight ahead and your body is in line with your work. Twisting just a few degrees may not seem harmful, but day after day, week after week, the negative effects can be cumulative.
To reduce the risk of muscle strains, avoid leaning and reaching at extreme angles. Take time to organize your work area so that objects you use most are within easy reach. It is smarter to get up from your chair rather than reach across a long distance. Besides, it is much better for your back to get up and move around as often as possible.
It is essential that you have a good chair that supports your spine and allows proper blood and nerve flow to the lower extremities. An uncomfortable chair that does not fit your body properly can cause problems from the neck and upper torso all the way down to the lower back and legs. Since we are all different shapes and sizes, it's necessary to try out many different chairs to find the one that is right for you. We recently spent close to an hour playing musical chairs, much to the amusement of the store’s salesperson.
Expensive, high back executive chairs are not ideal for doing desk work for extended periods, although the neck support is helpful for leaning back on short breaks. As with everything else in an office setting, the more adjustable a chair is, the better chance you have of custom fitting it to your body. Of course, proper posture is a necessity for anyone who sits for extended periods. Try to keep your feet flat on the floor and avoid slouching.
Many chairs come with built in lumbar support, but frequently this still is not enough to fill in the space between your back and the chair. An adjustable backrest can give your back even more support by placing it exactly where you need it. You can also use lumbar pillows and cushions to support the lower back and make you more aware of your posture.
Look for a chair with a seat that supports approximately two-thirds of your thighs and slopes downward, allowing your hips to be higher than your knees. This position prevents the blood circulation from being cut off to your lower legs and feet. Make sure that the seat has adequate padding to help prevent loss of blood and nerve flow.
Also, be aware that if you walk or sit with a fat wallet in your back pocket, you can alter the foundation of your whole spine over time, resulting in lower back pain or discomfort.