For many of us, sitting at a desk for eight hours a day is a simple and unavoidable fact of life. And while it may seem a bit counterintuitive, sitting down to “take a load off” can actually add quite a bit of pressure to our backs.
When our back is in its ideal position, with us standing straight up or lying flat, we’re placing the least amount of pressure on the discs between vertebrae. When we sit down and cause the back to curve, we add close to 50 percent as much pressure to these discs as when we’re standing. And if we’re carrying a bit of extra weight up front, that pressure can increase to nearly 300 percent with poor posture.
Better Posture When Sitting
If you do spend your days in a chair, the amount of stress you put on your spine is greatly amplified by how much you slouch. Over time, slouching over your keyboard or work area can often lead to disc problems, nerve pain and potential long-term damage, so paying attention to your posture can lead to a much healthier back down the road.
Your chair isn’t just for sitting — it’s for leaning up against. Keeping your shoulders above your hips, slightly behind your lower back, is your healthiest pose to fight back problems. If your chair has adjustable lumbar support, make sure it’s adjusted to support the curve of your back. If it doesn’t offer support, look into inexpensive lumbar rolls to place between your back and chair.
Make sure you get up from time to time too. Stand for a few minutes, or walk around to take that pressure off your spine. Make time to exercise, focusing on a routine that will strengthen your core muscles that help keep you upright. And add some cardio and meal planning into the mix as well if you’ve got some extra pounds up front — losing that weight will make a major difference in how much pressure you’re putting on your discs.
Better Posture When Standing
If your work requires you to be on your feet all or most of the day, it can be easy to adopt poor posture. Many who work while standing do so at a work area that isn’t the correct height, forcing them to bend over and put unneeded pressure on their discs. Those who lift often do so using techniques that increase back problems as well.
If you can adjust your standing work surface, do so. You want to be standing upright, like a soldier at attention, allowing your spine to curve naturally. By raising a work surface, you can bring your shoulders back accordingly and greatly reduce that back strain.
In addition, if you use a keyboard while standing, remember that the optimal position is to have the work surface equal to your elbows. Your forearms should lay flat, at a right angle to the body. Raise your monitor to where your neck is straight up, eyes looking directly forward. This position lets your spine, from the base of your skull all the way to your pelvis, remain in its natural, ideal shape.
And if you lift things while standing, always remember — lift with the legs. Bend from the hips, not the lower back. Carry weight close to your body, standing upright when you walk. Make your work a healthier process for your back. Pay attention to your posture, and make a consistent effort to treat your back as well as it deserves. You’ll reap the rewards for the rest of your life.
If you deal with back pain and want to talk to reliable physicians who will work to bring you relief, contact Spine Institute of North America right away.