Because of the lockdowns occasioned by COVID-19, we have found ourselves spending much time indoors and even embraced working from home. We spend more time working on our laptops or watching TV. This routine can impact our back muscles and spinal discs leading to back pains, which are issues our Ottawa physiotherapists often see. This article highlights how sitting positions can physically impact our spine and provides essential tips for the best sitting positions.
How Sitting Affects Our Spines
A healthy spine is important in allowing movement. When you move, the discs in your spine expand and contract to absorb shock and pressure exerted in your spinal vertebrae.
Sitting will put more pressure on your spine than when you are standing, potentially risking the health of your spine.
Here is how pressure from sitting physically impacts your spine:
- The pressure compresses your disc over time, making them lose flexibility and increasing the risk of herniated discs.
- Sitting weakens your back muscles over time, making your back muscles less supported. This increases the likelihood of back injury.
- Your sitting position can tighten your hip flexors and restrict blood flow to spine supporters such as gluteal muscles.
- Sitting for long can lead to posture changes that increase stress on the spinal ligaments, causing them to overstretch. This may increase the wear on our discs. The most common posture change resulting from prolonged sitting is a forward head position and rounded shoulders.
The Best Sitting Positions To Prevent Back Pains
The best sitting positions include:
- Using support for your back
- Adjusting the height of your chair
- Position your monitor or screen well
- Placing your keyboard and mouse in the right place
- Taking regular breaks
Using support for your back
It is healthy to support your lower back using a lumbar pillow or a rolled-up towel.
Adjusting the height of your chair
Adjust the height of the chair until your feet are resting flat on the floor and your knees are even with your hips. If your feet do not reach the floor, find something to elevate them in the proper position. Crossing your legs is also not advisable as it reduces the blood flow to the legs.
Position your monitor or screen well
The monitor should be in a position that allows you to work without twisting. Therefore, you must ensure the monitor is placed directly in front of you at a comfortable height and distance. The recommended height does not require looking downwards or upwards; the right space is arm’s length.
Placing your keyboard and mouse in the right place
The space between the edge of the desk and the keyboard should allow room for your wrists to be supported. Leaving about 6 inches would be fine, but you may have to look for a wrist pad that can help to position your hands even if your keyboard is raised.
Taking regular breaks
Standing for a minute or two every half an hour helps to break up the more extended sitting periods.