Have you ever noticed that you have low back pain when you sit for too long? Maybe you noticed that you are stiff every time you get out of a chair and you have difficulty straightening yourself back up? Low back pain is a common complaint that arises from sitting too long and as Americans we do it for far too long. Most people are aware that sitting for too long can be dangerous for your health, but many people are not aware of the proper sitting posture that can help prevent stress to your spine. They also may not be aware, that poor posture not only affects the lower back, but also the mid back and neck. Today’s message is that you can do a few things to help make sitting a lot less stressful on your spine. It’s important to have the tools sit properly because we have to sit sometimes! Here are a few easy things that a person can do aid in sitting with good spinal posture:
- Sit in a chair that is not too cushioned and that allows your thighs to be close to level with the ground. If your knees are brought up too close to your chest, or your are too far slouched in your chair, it can cause a lot of stress to your spine. Many cases of low back pain are caused by chairs that cause the knees to be too high. You want your lower back to be in as neutral of a posture as possible in order to maintain its normal curve.
- Sit using a McKenzie or homemade lumbar roll to support the low back. A lumbar roll helps maintain your lumbar spinal curve which (as the base of your spine) helps set the tone for the posture of the rest of your spine. If you don’t have a good curve in your low back, not only could you have low back pain, but it’s harder to have good curves in the thoracic spine and neck which could lead to pain in those areas as well! To use the lumbar roll, simply lean forward a bit and slide your bottom as far back in the seat as you can. Place the lumbar roll in the small of your back and then lean back against the roll. You should be sitting upright, with minimal contact with the back of the seat. If you’re wondering why you are not leaning back against the seat in a relaxed position, it is because that posture will cause your upper back and neck to flex forward which puts a lot of stress on those areas. An upright, correct posture is the ideal way to sit for maximum relief of sitting spinal stress. Though we don’t generally recommend it, some people even make their own using towels. This can work in a pinch, but we prefer the McKenzie roll and there are several varieties including different foam densities. If you are curious to see what they look and feel like, feel free to stop in our office as we carry a couple of models in stock.
- Take regular breaks. For every 30 minutes of sitting, you should get up and move around for a few minutes. This helps us get better circulation and decreases the effects of prolonged sitting including low back pain. The research shows that the longer we sits without breaks, the greater the effect on our health. Get up every 30 minutes or so and take a brief walk to get the blood flowing! One of the first things that a person will notice about sitting with good posture is that it takes effort. This of course is true and you will find yourself getting tired, especially in the beginning, from sitting in a good posture. With time, you will have greater stamina to be able to sit with good posture for longer periods and with less effort. Taking breaks is a good way to give yourself back a break from the work of sitting properly.
While these tips may seem simple, it is important that we use consciously think about and apply them as we sit everyday. People will often note that their car, office, or home chair “already has a lumbar support” but often those supports are inadequate. In the event that they are actually good enough to maintain the lumbar curve, patients often lean back in them as they sit which transfers the stress right up the spine. You must sit upright, with a good lower back curve, to set the stage for the rest of the spine to be in good posture. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to do so. Simply sit with your legs in the proper position, use a lumbar roll correctly, and take breaks often. To see a visual demonstration of sitting properly and using a lumbar roll, click on the video above. One of our main priorities is to help our patients to live with less pain so that they can do the things that they love. We all need to sit, and we don’t want it to be as much of a burden on your health as it can be. If you are having a lot of low back pain from sitting, or are interesting in having a demo on how to use a lumbar roll, feel free to contact our office to set up a demonstration.