FACT: Human beings were not designed to sit for hours on end…
Sitting posture is a constant topic that raises its “crooked” head up at nearly every physio appointment. Why? Well because as physiotherapists, we are constantly battling the negative effects of sitting for hours on end.
The human spine is divided into 4 distinct curves: neck (cervical), middle (thoracic), lower back (lumbar) and sacrum. These curves are designed to distribute the load that gravity places on the spine (like a spring), absorb shock and obviously allow movement.
The problem with sitting is that these curves are “imbalanced”. The neck and middle back curves become exaggerated and the lower back’s curve is almost completely lost (see pic above). This results in adaptive muscle shortening or stretching, depending on which side of the curve we look at. This then translates to poor standing posture and difficulty with functional movements, with the end result being an injury. So what im trying to say is the way you sit at your desk could very well be the reason why you pulled your hamstrings whilst you were running….
Another scary fact is the amount of pressure that you place on the discs (the “cushions” between the vertebras). As you can tell from the diagram above, the difference in pressure between standing and forward lean sitting (i.e. sitting on the edge of your chair leaning forwards) is an ASTONISHING 90% increase!!!! That’s the equivalent of having someone with your own body weight standing on your head!!!
So what can you do if you are one of those office bound monkeys? Well, start off by assessing your posture by comparing it to the “ideal” posture below. Make changes where you can and stick to those. You can have the most expensive “ergonomically” designed office chair, but if you’re not sitting in it properly it’s worthless.
Secondly, STAND!!! Every 30-40minutes, get up and walk around, or if you have some privacy try stretching a bit. Try standing whilst you talk on the phone or walk over to that colleague to deliver a message rather than sending an email.
Look out for my next article on some of the stretches you should be doing at the office or home to improve your posture.
BY: Riccardo Vaccaro
Back injuries, General Health/Fitness, Neck injuries