Are you sitting comfortably

Bad Posture

Sitting can be a real pain in the bum. Gavin Young - Chiropractor explains, "the crux of the issue with chairs as a whole is that they are in fact a recent invention." In the last millennium chairs were primarily used by the upper classes and royalty whilst the rest of us would have had to make do with benches, rocks, squatting or lying down. Humans have been around far far longer than chairs have been. Humans for thousands of years have been lying down, squatting leaning, sitting on knees or crossed legged. It is only in the past few hundred years that these weird things called chairs have become common place. And these chair things have become an absolute staple piece of furniture in every building in the western world. 

The problem with chair sitting is that it stretches our glutes (the bum muscles) and they become week. Then because our knees are bent at right angles on chairs our hamstrings become shorter and they take over the work the glutes do whilst walking. Poor sitting posture can lead to a number of aches and pains not only in the back and neck but also shoulder and arm pain as well as headaches. Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities.  A slouched posture increases the load on the ligaments and disks in the low back and often also results in a forward head carriage. Overtime this leads to fatigue of these supporting structures in the low back and thus an increased risk of potential injury even with the smallest of tasks due to the decrease in there efficacy. The coincided development of a forward head carriage results in a substantial increase in the activity of the muscles in the back of the neck and between the shoulder blades and therefore headaches and neck pains may result.

Data from the British Chiropractic Association says 32% of the population spends more than 10 hours a day seated. Half do not leave their desks, even to have lunch, two thirds of people also sit down at home when they get home from work.

There are many commonly accepted guidelines for a safe and comfortable workstation that are actually myths. Some postures and furniture can actually harm you and lead to discomfort.

Myth #1: Sitting correctly at a desk will eliminate discomfort and reduce injuries.

In actuality, sitting with picture-perfect posture for long periods of time can actually lead to more discomfort, as it is extremely fatiguing. It can also lead to joint-pain and muscle strain because the torso is placing constant pressure on the lower disks in your back. Even in the ergonomically correct position, your arms and hands can still incur injuries. Any time you are sitting or standing in a static position, you increase the risk of prolonged physical conditions. To avoid any injuries at your workstation, try alternating between sitting and standing while working. Choose dynamic positions that will increase blood flow and alleviate stiff muscles. Also, include small rest breaks and stretch frequently to help avoid injuries.

Myth #2: Always sit upright, and never recline at the workstation.

4 out of 5 workers would prefer to recline their chair slightly when working. In fact, a reclined position creates much less fatigue than sitting upright. Being slightly reclined is also much easier to maintain and alleviates gravitational pressure on the lower disks in the back. However, be cautious to avoid slouching, which can cause injuries from a lack of sufficient back support.

Myth #3: Ergonomic chairs are one-size fits all.

A single chair size won’t fit every shape and size. Women are shaped differently than men, and their hips are generally wider. Men usually have longer legs and consequently will need a deeper seat. There are many different body types, and each one requires a different seating solution. In addition, different chairs are appropriate for different tasks. When selecting an ergonomic chair, consider the tasks you will be doing and your body size and shape.

Myth #4: Adjust the chair height according to the table height.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Although it may seem like a simple solution, this does not always result in a safe sitting position. Instead, keep your chair at the appropriately adjusted position for your body type. If your chair is too low, it can add extra pressure to your legs and back. If the chair is set too high, it can result in discomfort from your feet dangling. You can get a footrest to avoid this, but the best way to avoid injuries is to adjust the table height or the task at hand.

Good PostureHow to get comfortable

  • The seat height should be adjustable
  • Your feet should comfortably rest on the floor with your knees slightly below your hips. If your chair is too high to do this then a footstool may come in handy
  • The distance between your chair and desk should be 27-30cm
  • A good lumbar support to help maintain the arch in your lower back
  • Tilt the seat so the front is slightly lower than the back 5-15 degrees
  • The back rest should have an incline of 95 to 105 degrees
  • Do not sit down for longer than 30 minutes at a time, just getting up for 30 seconds will reduce fatigue setting in

Don't sit back and wait for the pain to arrive, do something about it now, adjust your chair and posture to minimise the stresses and strains going through your body.

Gavin Young






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