When you sit lazily, gravity and body weight put the back into a slouched position. The slouched back position puts stress on ligaments. Supporting the back's natural curves minimizes this stress and fatigue. Support of the low back arch helps in maintaining the other back curves.
- Support the lower back - While sitting, use a towel roll or sweater placed in the small of the lower back. Place the towel just below the beltline.
- Sitting posture - Sit back in the chair. Keep the knees basically level with the hips. Always try to maintain and support the lower back arch and get your chair in close to your work.
- Proper chair - Take time to adjust your chair for a comfortable work height and back support.
- Standing - When possible, plan to stand to do part of your job. Equal parts of standing and sitting will prevent fatigue of the back muscles.
- Walking - Briefly walking around your work area every 90 minutes can be a good change of position from sitting and can lessen fatigue.
- Arching backward - This exercise puts the body in the opposite position of sitting. Place the hands on your lower back and arch back gently (5 times).
The forces of gravity and body weight push down on the spine day after day. The prolonged sitting or standing position is probably the biggest source of back stress.
The effects of gravity on posture are different in the standing position than in the sitting position.
- Standing - Gravity pushes down on the spine and causes "swayback" in the lower back as the postural muscles fatigue. The shoulders round forward and give a "turtle neck" appearance.
- Sitting - Gravity pulls down on the spine and causes it to sag and slouch. This posture is worse when sitting on soft low couches or chairs with poor back support.
Sitting with Restful Style
Despite the old saying, "Sit down and rest awhile..." did you know that you are not really resting your back when you sit? Studies show that sitting is actually one of our most stressful positions for our spines, especially when we lean forward, like over a desk or table.
When we sit, gravity and body position cause our lower backs to "slouch," putting considerable stress on the ligaments and discs between the vertebrae in our backs. Supporting the spine in a natural, slightly arched position can minimize this stress. Two things which are also important are:
Your chair - When sitting for long periods of time, select a chair that is firm, but padded in both the seat and back. When your feet are flat on the floor, your knees should be slightly higher than your hips; when sitting all the way back in your chair, your calves should not touch the front edge.
Back support is also a consideration. The chair should provide support low into your lumbar region, and the chair arms should be used for body support and not interfere with desk or table surface. Above all, avoid soft low couches or chairs.
- The way you sit - By sitting all the way back against the back rest, as well as propping one or both feet up to keep your knees higher than your hips, you will relieve spinal stress and stay comfortable longer. A low back support such as a cushion or towel roll can provide support to prevent "slouching." And if sitting is uncomfortable for you, get up as frequently as possible, even if just for a few moments.
Remember, sitting may help you "take a load off your feet..." but it can put a strain on your back instead. The proper chair and a correct sitting position can make a difference.
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