A sitting posture that doesn’t killBy
Sitting kills your back.
That’s a bold statement. Is it true?
In 1982, researchers affiliated with the Cooper Institute in Dallas surveyed affluent individuals and their sitting habits.
The study confirmed that people who spent more than 23 hours a week sitting, watching TV or sitting in the office, had a 64% percent greater chance of dying from heart disease. One take-away is that less activity burns fewer calories.
But why does sitting kill your back?
The scoop on disc pressure and pain
If you understand how the discs work between the vertebras of your spine, you will easily understand what happens to your discs when you sit more then 8+ hours per day. Look at this chart below.
You can see that the typical forward slouching sitting position creates the most pressure on your discs.
The physiology that you need to understand is the shift of the nucleus. Think of the nucleus as a ball that is in the center of the disc that helps to distribute your weight equally.
When you bend backward or forward, the nucleus of the discs moves away from its center position. When you bend your spine to pick something up from the floor, your nucleus moves towards the back.
As a result, the front of the disc will be compressed and the back of the disc will open up. Hence, this forward bend shifts your disc’s fluid, creating an unequal disc protection/cushioning between the vertebrae.
The bad news is that the greatest amount of fluid is squeezed out of a disc while sitting and slouching forward. Intra-disc pressure increases by as much as 300% , squeezing out the greatest amount of fluids.
How can you create a better sitting position to reduce disc pressure and improve back pain?
The least disc pressure is generated while lying on your back (25% disc pressure). However, this won’t help you when you sit. Switching to sideways is no solution, (75% disc pressure) and neither is standing (100% disc pressure).
The goal is not to achieve 0% disc pressure (which is possible only in space) but rather to help your discs distribute your weight equally so that you don’t create a “” while you sit.
Analyze the sitting position with the highest amount of disc pressure and you will see that it is one with the hips in a posterior position (tucked under).
To improve your seated posture, you’ve probably heard the saying “sit up straight”. Try it out to see if it works.
Tuck your hips under, slouch forward and try to sit upright.
It doesn’t work, does it?
When you try to sit upright in this forward sloughed position, you are hyper-extending your thoracic spine, increasing the tension in your cervical thoracic junction and thoracic lumbar junction.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, this position will create further imbalances in your muscular and skeletal structure.
When you stand up from a forward slouch sitting position into an upright standing position, you risk further imbalances as well as wear and tear on your spine and joints. Your butt starts to “grip” to maintain this comfortable position and to stabilize your body structure in this position.
Over time, your gluteal strength becomes weak and your hamstrings assume the work of the hip flexor when you forward bend. This also creates a de-centration of the hip joint. You will find yourself saying: “Ah, my hamstrings are tight. I need to stretch.” And this is what you do. Stretch all day without experiencing a release.
The sitting position that heals and not kills
How do you sit properly?
Try the following. Sit down so that your legs don’t dangle from the chair. Place feet flat on the floor. Align your knee and toe.
Then do those steps:
- Pull the flesh of your right buttock cheek backward; followed by the right.
- Elongate yourself through your spine.
- Avoid pushing your shoulders back.
- Take a big breathe in to let the diaphragm drop into the abdominal cavity.
This sounds very simple but it will require practice and consistent reminders for you to stay in this sitting position.
This sitting position will help you to create a “neutral” spine with out the high compression of your discs.
A great chair for sitting is the “Swooper”. Check it out at www.swooper.com.
And remind yourself to get up every 60 minutes.
Dedicated to your pain-free fitness success.
Stefan Aschan, M.Sc
CPT, CSCC, Integrative Movement Specialist ™
P.s.: Contact us for your “Success Session” to find out if the Strength123’s Integrative Movement Program might be for you. Click here.