Emergency Sitting Advice
“ Sitting for prolonged periods of time can cause or increase lower back and neck pain. Sitting for prolonged periods every day is a great deal worse than doing it occasionally.”
Maintaining good posture whilst sitting usually helps, but trying too hard can make things worse. You need to achieve good posture and still stay relaxed. This can be achieved by a bit of do-it-yourself OR by getting a gadget OR by getting a “balance” / “ergonomic” chair.
Personal Advice from The Back Shop, in store or by phone / online will help choose the best approach but until then,
check these tips straight away:
- Posture: Get up-to-date about posture: The old adage of “sit up straight” doesn't work with modern computers and our excessively sedentary life style.
Nor does the other adage of “keep your back supported".
Instead find a way to tilt the chair forward. Do this NOW, so that your knees are lower than your hips. Do this by adding a ring binder on the chair (stuffed with an old jumper or paper say), or use a wedge of foam on the seat; or put blocks under the back legs. It's true we sell gadgets that will do the job much better but we're talking first aid and emergency here, so improvise now to prevent further damage.
- Try sitting on this sloping seat without touching a backrest. Rock gently, find your relaxed, upright posture, relax the shoulders, then do the tests below.
- The Back Shop tests: does the side seam on your trousers point at your ear? If it points to a place behind your ear you are still in a slumped shape. Let your stomach stick out more.
Once your seam IS pointing at your ear check the backrest: If the backrest shape of your current chair doesn't fit the new inward curve of your back make changes immediately. You'll slump into a badly shaped backrest and re-establish your slumping habits. As an emergency-fix put a rolled up towel behind the small of your back, or choose a better chair from another room, or (of course) order a back support or a chair from us! (This advice is free and usually works but we do have to make a living)
So.. you've now got the basics of The Back Shop sitting lifestyle:
- When working at a desk (including eating say) sit unsupported on a forward sloping seat with your back in an S shape, and your spine balanced and swaying. This will increase blood flow, decrease inflammation, and make your back muscles stronger.. oh and it decreases neck strain too!
- When thinking, or taking a rest sit supported against a well shaped backrest, with your spine still in an S shape, so that your muscles can rest for a while. This will work best if you remove the slope on the seat....which is why chairs whose seat pan rocks back and forward will be your ultimate goal.
- Avoid at all costs sitting on a backward leaning chair seat while you are working forward, or a forward leaning chair while working backwards... just a small amount of strain can delay your recovery for days.
The Back Shop advanced information: Sitting on a forward sloping seat allows most people to experience less strain, and to get their back muscles to be stronger. It also allows people to lean forward to a desk with less neck and back stress.
The very best chairs will have a constantly changing seat angle to encourage fitness. If you can't afford this approach then a gadget that makes the seat unstable works very well.
Some people will need a steeper slope than others, so experiment. If the slope is too great, or your clothing too slippery then you will slip forward. One way of avoiding this is to use chairs with a faux suede covering and/or a kneeling chair. The principle is the same ... it's just the degree of help is different.
NB: People are very confused about what a “kneeling chair” does. It's actually very simple. These chairs allow your thighs to slope forward more than you can achieve by sloping the seat of a conventional chair. There should be minimal knee pressure. The extra slope allows the back to balance even better, and to get fit more quickly. We recommend kneeling chairs that rock, so that fitness is further improved. We also select those models that protect the shins and knees. Some of our conventional (looking) work and home chairs get close to the angle of a kneeling chair, and we can help decide on the best approach for you.
- Elbow angle: if adjustments are possible set your desk and chair so that your upper arms hang loosely straight down, your elbows should be at 90 degrees and level with table height. Lean forward from the hip joint to get your shoulders over the table, and to allow your elbows to support you some of the time with your back still lengthened.
- Armrest height: adjust armrest, if possible, so that it is at desk height or just below. It's important that you do not have to hunch your shoulders up in order to move your arms freely. On the other hand too low and they'll be useless. N.B. By following the Posture and Balance advice you'll be close enough to the desk even if the arms are at table height.
Low back support: If you can't alter the seat angle, or when reclining push your bottom against the back of your chair; this will prevent your pelvis from rotating backwards. There may be a lumbar support inbuilt in your chair, if not a cushion will help, or a purpose made support.
- Screen or paper level: If you touch type set your screen high, BUT if you “hunt and peck” on the keyboard set the screen low (you'll be looking down anyway so it decreases neck strain). For writing try an old fashioned writing slope... you can make one for now from a ring binder... lots less strain and better handwriting: we've some on offer at the moment too.
Your head should follow the curve of the spine: If you are leaning forwards it's fine for the head to be forwards too, this works well if you can't touch type. Muscles can take load if the alignment is good... better to be carrying the weight of you head forward in good posture than to having all that weight bear down on a distorted spine ... even if you have supported the spine on a backrest. When leaning forward your trouser /skirt seam should still point at your ear!
Please remember: No matter how comfortable you are, prolonged sitting in a static way is not good for your spine generally and is a well-known cause of neck and back problems. Static muscle usage is tiring so your posture will collapse. If you can, get a “state of the art” chair which rocks and therefore exercises you whilst sitting. If not then regularly stand up, stretch your arms and walk for around for at least 2 minutes every 30-45 minutes.
If you follow our lead you'll also buy a sit stand desk and spend part of each day on your feet ... but maybe that's a bridge too far for now.
And if all this still leaves you in discomfort; hire a Mobiliser! It's the best thing we've found for getting over major back problems.