By Dr. Chris Gubbels
If you’re like most people, you probably spend a great deal of time sitting. Spending eight hours a day sitting isn’t unusual for computer workers, receptionists, or middle managers, for example. The average person spends 32 years of their life sitting. With Covid-19 work restrictions, a lot of people are now working at home, where they may not have as ergonomically friendly work station.
The result? More and more Americans are experiencing discomfort and deteriorating health due to poor posture. It’s no accident that I treat more patients with conditions related to being chronically sedentary today than I have in the past.
Good health is very precious; in fact, good health will allow you to continue doing what you enjoy most in life. But good health doesn’t often come easy; you have to work at it.
Given this reality, becoming aware of how we sit can be the difference between living a healthy, pain-free life or a life of discomfort, limited motion, and mobility.
A Better Way to Sit
Learning how to sit correctly may seem a bit ridiculous at first. After all, learning to sit isn’t like learning to ride a bike! Yet there’s a growing number of people experiencing pain because of poor sitting technique. People who are active throughout the day may be able to get away with poor sitting habits, but most of us who sit for hours cannot.
Fortunately, healthcare practitioners have studied the conditions needed to maintain proper posture while sitting. How a person’s legs, back, arms, and head are positioned while seated plays a crucial role in maintaining optimal spinal health.
The ideal position for your legs while sitting is to have your knees slightly higher than your hips to relieve any pressure on your back. If the seat of the chair is too high, your knees will be below your hips and put excessive stress on your legs, knees, hips, and even your lower back. Your feet must touch the floor when you are sitting.
Raising or lowering your chair will help keep your feet, knees, and hips in their proper alignment to keep stress at a minimum in your lower back and hip area.
You also need to consider the desk you are using. Your arms should be no more than several inches away from your side when working at your desk when performing typing activities. If your feet are resting on the floor, yet the desk you work on is too high for you, your arms will flare from your side. This will cause shoulder and elbow problems.
If your legs are short of reaching the floor because your desk is too tall, you may need to use a footrest, allowing you to rest your feet at the proper height in proportion to your knees and hips. Some people even use the Yellow Pages or a binder full of papers to help accomplish the task of taking care of their lower body.
Your spine must maintain its natural curve as you look at it from the side. Anything you can do to support that normal arch will help. A proper fitting chair will keep minimal pressure on the muscles and joints.
It is a good idea, depending on the type of chair you are using, to add a backrest or a rolled-up hand towel to better support your back joints and muscles. If it feels slightly strange at first, give it a little bit of time first. As your back adapts and adjusts to that support, you may find that you can sit much longer without feeling discomfort into your lower back.
Arm and Head Positioning
The placement of your arms while working affects your neck, shoulders, and back. The best place for your computer is directly in front of you.
To know the best distance that your arms should be in, reach in front of you and have your monitor within arm’s reach. Your arms should be comfortably rested at your side, not reaching for the keyboard. Ergonomics engineers will tell you that the arms should be at a 20-degree angle to your body’s torso. That way, you limit the amount of strain on the shoulders.
Good Health and Good Posture Go Hand in Hand
There is a fundamental understanding within societies worldwide as it relates posture to health: Good posture often leads to good health, and poor posture often leads to poor health.
Commit today for better health. If you are experiencing soreness or discomfort due to poor posture, make an appointment with a chiropractic physician for an
evaluation. It’s the best way to correct and prevent future pain and loss of mobility.
About the Author
Dr. Chris Gubbels is chiropractor in Fort Collins, Colorado. He has been published in The Journal of Physical Therapy Science and is a member of the International Chiropractic Association and the Society on Scoliosis Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Treatment. He specializes in personal injury, scoliosis, and non-surgical spine correction. www.squareonehealth.com