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Five Changes to Reduce Back Pain: Sitting

Unfortunately, sitting has become the norm for most of the population. Three out of every four people in the workforce perform their job sitting. When we sit our spine is forced to flex. A flexed posture causes unavoidable increases in disc pressure. You’re likely sitting while reading this article. What’s your posture look like? For most of us, sitting is a major part of our day. We don’t simply sit at work, we sit at home in front of the TV or computer, on the couch, and for three meals a day. In fact, some of our most active patients continue to sit for exercise. Which begs the question, “Why should we sit MORE when we are trying to be active?” Sitting less throughout the day benefits not only our back, but our body as a whole.

Our bodies were made to be upright. We’re made to move. The war on sitting has begun on all fronts. Numerous published research articles have begun the call to arms, proving that minimizing sitting can prevent unnecessary tension from damaging our low back, neck, and shoulders. In fact, some research has correlated increased sitting to higher mortality rates.

Let’s face it. Sitting may be unavoidable, particularly at work. So if you must sit, sit up. Slouched sitting places considerably more pressure on the discs in your low back. The increased pressure can lead to disc herniations and early degenerative changes. In fact, slouched sitting almost doubles the pressure on your disc compared to upright sitting. Again, if you must sit, sit up. Ideally, you’ll be able to get up

Proper Sitting Posture

Proper sitting posture preserves the natural curves of our spine. Your ear, shoulder, and hip should all be aligned. Holding this posture takes practice, strength, and awareness. Like any habit or muscle, good posture can be trained and improved.

Sitting applies unwanted force to the front of the discs in your low back. Let’s compare your disc to a jelly donut. You have the inside jelly contained within the outer dough. If you kept pushing on the front of the donut, the jelly would start to migrate towards the back, right?. This is exactly what happens to a lumbar disc while you sit. What’s even worse? Sitting with poor posture only accelerates this process. How’s your posture since we mentioned earlier in this article? Slumping again? Don’t worry. You’re likely not the only one.

Slouched Sitting Posture

Take a look around the next time you’re at the office. How many people are hunched over their workstation? Slouched sitting increases your risk for disc herniation and accelerates degenerative changes. Your neck will be forced to hyperextend to look straight ahead. You can blatantly see the changes in alignment compared to that of the above image.

In a perfect world, everyone would stand more and sit less. Remember, we are made to move. Many of us don’t have the luxury of standing more. Standing work stations can be costly; however, some over-the-bed tables sold on Amazon can effectively solve this issue. A quick search can land you a cheap and easy alternative to sitting at work.

Luckily, small modifications in the way you sit can slow the wear on your low back. The answer is in your posture. Sitting with good posture takes strength and practice. In fact, you’re likely slouching from first and second time we mentioned it above. You’ll need to build better habits moving forward. Find a cue at home or in the office that initiates change. A phone ringing or quick glances at a clock are two regularly occurring instances that can be used to trigger a posture change. Adding support is another proven way to both decrease back pain and disc pressure. Placing either a lumbar roll or rolled towel along the curve of your low back can be used to achieve added support. You’re looking to maintain the natural curve of the lumbar spine. A poor, slumped posture reverses your natural curve. Your job is to maintain it. Ideal sitting posture leaves the hips and knees positioned at 90 degrees. Using a computer? Position the screen at eye level and your head in a neutral position. This means no sticking your chin forward. Good sitting posture may not be as beneficial as standing, but it can considerably slow the deterioration in your low back when compared to that of slumped sitting.

For those with the flexibility at work try setting up a standing work station. Using a standing work station or adjustable desk to transition from sitting to standing throughout the day are two easy ways to reduce the pressure through your spine. Remember, you have less pressure in your lumbar spine when you stand vs. sit.

So ask yourself and ask it frequently… how is my posture?

sitting, posture, low, back, pain, physical, therapy

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