Prolonged sitting is a frequent cause of back and neck pain. And while extended periods of sitting are best avoided, for many, it's a fact of life.
When sitting, it's important to keep the back straight, knees bent, and head centered over the shoulders. Slouching forward may be comfortable and allow the spinal muscles to relax but gradually overstretches spinal ligaments, leading to back and neck pain among other problems. We always encourage patients to maintain a "neutral spine" position at all time is ideal.
Seat Backrest - The proper chair has a backrest which slightly inclines backwards. This has the effect of relaxing the spinal musculature and decreasing spinal discal pressure.
Armrests - Armrests provide support for the arms which helps to reduce the work load and stress on the trapezius and shoulder muscles. The armrest height should allow the forearms to comfortably rest while being low enough to go underneath tables or desks in the work area.
Lumbar Support - Having a lumbar support either built into the chair or inserting a portable lumbar support helps to maintain your natural lower back curve. These small supports are quite handy, effective and relatively inexpensive.
Seat Bottom Angle - The seat angle relative to the floor is more of a personal preference than an exact science, as long as a neutral spine can be maintained in comfort. In general, the more the seat bottom tilts forward the more extension of your lower back will occur to keep you in a neutral position.
Seat Height - The height of the seat should be so that it allows you to sit all the way back in the seat while your feet are still able to reach the floor. If they can't and you're stuck with the chair, use a footrest to remedy the problem.
In addition to the suggestions provided above, it's important to:
- Be aware of your posture throughout the day and be sure to maintain a neutral spine -no slouching
- Take mini breaks on a regular basis when in a prolonged position and remember to stretch
- Have the right equipment and tools for working in a prolonged position, use ergonomically designed furniture and keep a lumbar support in your car for "chair crises"
Dr. Stephanie Maj has a thriving family practice in the heart of Chicago. Her clinic is located at 1442 W. Belmont Ave., 1E, Chicago, IL 60657. 773.528.8485. www.communitychiropractic.net