When you think about the fact that eight out of ten adults have back pain at some point in their lives, you have to wonder whether something is going on. Has something changed to make our backs less healthy? Has evolution made us soft, or should we blame it on technology?
There are so many factors that have contributed to the increasing risk of suffering back pain, and one of them has to do with the endless quest for comfort when we’re sitting. That’s right, those cushy, plush easy chairs and upholstered couches that we love to sink into are leading to a higher risk of experiencing back pain.
Where once chairs were made of little other than wood with straight backs, over the last two or three hundred years we have slowly but surely added fabric, cushions, and a wide range of angles and widths to our seating options. While those choices may have introduced greater opportunities for feeling comfort and a sense of luxury, they have also sacrificed much-needed support. As a result, when offered a chair that is either too deep or too soft, we end up having to work in order to make sure that we’re sitting in a way that is healthy for our backs.
When a chair lets us sink back too deeply, you end up with either your feet sticking out in front of you or not taking advantage of the available back support. When the cushioning is too soft, your spine is automatically thrown out of proper posture and into the shape of the letter “c”. Though that may feel delightful, and isn’t harmful for a short period of time, prolonged periods in either of those spine bending positions can lead to muscle pain, and eventually even to damage to the vertebra discs.
There’s no need to go out and get rid of your favorite chair, or even to spend more time standing Instead, you need to learn a few basic strategies to use when you find yourself in a chair that is throwing you into a potentially harmful position.
Sit on the edge of your seat. Sure, it’s tempting to throw yourself into the comfort of an overstuffed, oversized chair, but if you have the option, try to choose a chair that has a solid frame where you can sit on the front part of the chair. If you pretend that the chair doesn’t actually have a back so that you force yourself to sit up straight instead of allowing yourself to lean back and fold yourself into a C shape. You also want to be mindful of the position that your legs are in. If you’re sitting and your knees are higher than your hips, you’re actually causing yourself stress. Instead, try to open that up a bit so that you’re at a wider-than-90-degree angle.
Put something between you and the back of your chair. Whether you place a special pillow, a rolled up sweater, or your handbag, you want to place it so that it is not only behind you but also so that you are sitting on the front edge of it. Doing this lefts your rear end a bit and tilts your pelvis forward, which is a much healthier position. Try to find something shaped like a wedge, but even a newspaper or magazine will do in a pinch.
Pay attention to your position in your car. Though plenty of automobile seats have plenty of neck support and wrap around edges, only a few provide the lumbar support that you need to support your lower back. You don’t want to place a large pillow or object between you and your seat because you need the car’s seat and headrest for support in case of an accident. But if you can fill in the hollow between the small of your back and the front of your seat, you will go a long way towards providing yourself with improved comfort and support.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our lumbar spine specialist.