Is your sitting posture putting you at risk for pain?
Posture, by definition, is the position in which our bodies are held when we sit, stand or lie down. Proper or good posturing means that we use the most efficient amount of muscle energy to keep our joints aligned against the downward pull of gravity. The least amount of strain is placed on our body when we are in a good posture. If our joints are not properly aligned in good posture, the force of gravity causes excess stress on parts of your joints as well as the ligaments that support them. Over the years, excess or imbalanced stress on a joint can lead to early stages of osteoarthritis. Your muscles have to use increased force and energy to work against the excess load, which causes the muscles and associated tendons to also become stressed. Other tissues such as fascia, nerves, blood vessels, and even your internal organs can also be affected by the added stress of poor posturing. Even the ability to breathe freely, deeply and maximally expand your lungs is affected by the position of your posture.
Everyone has ‘postural’ muscles that work (usually without you even knowing it!) to keep you upright against gravity. These muscles are constantly firing at low levels to keep you in position while standing or sitting. Examples of these muscles include deep muscles in the front of your neck, deep muscles in your back and abdominal area, and the deep calf muscle called the soleus.
We are often asked to give a recommendation for sitting posture at a desk centric job.
Sitting can be an easier position to maintain for a long period of time than standing, but sitting can also cause a lot of stress to your body. Be mindful of the following points when trying to maintain good sitting posture at any time but particularly if you need to sit for a prolonged period:
- Keep your head up in the neutral position. This means that your head doesn’t bend forwards or backwards and doesn’t tilt to one side.
- Try to keep your shoulders pulled slightly backwards by using a very small amount of muscular tension in your upper back muscles. Do not let your shoulders round and slump forward. This causes increased stress to the neck, upper back, and shoulder If you are working on a computer or at a desk, keep your forearms and wrists parallel to the ground.
- Move backwards to ensure your back touches the back of the chair. If you are sitting at a desk or table you may then have to pull your chair closer in to the desk or table in order to maintain good posturing from the waist up. You should feel as though you are sitting on top of the bones in your buttocks, not rocking back behind them.
- Ensure your thighs are roughly parallel to the ground. They may be slightly higher or lower depending on comfort and how well your chair can support your thighs.
- Ensure there is a space between the back of your knees and the chair in order to not cause pressure at the back of your calves. If you are too short to accomplish this, you may need to insert a back support behind you to bring you more forward in the chair or use a footrest.
- Do not cross your legs.
- Use a footrest whenever possible in order to keep your feet up at a slight angle and to maintain your thigh position. Keep your feet down flat on the footrest or floor if there is no footrest available.
Even if you are sitting in a proper, upright posture - keep in mind that any posture for too long is bad posture. If you work at a desk job, make an effort to get up and walk around your office frequently throughout the day.