Did you know prolonged sitting is a frequent cause of back and neck pain? When sitting, it’s important to keep your back straight, knees bent, and head centered over the shoulders. Slouching forward may be comfortable and allow the spinal muscles to relax but gradually overstretches spinal ligaments, leading to back and neck pain among other problems. We always encourage patients to maintain a “neutral spine” position at all times.
In order to be able to maintain a “neutral spine” position, you should be aware of the seat backrest, armrests, lumbar support, seat bottom angle, and seat height.
The average chair has a backrest which slightly inclines backwards. This has the effect of relaxing the spinal musculature and decreasing spinal discal pressure. The armrests are designed to provide support for the arms which helps to reduce the work load and stress on the trapezius and shoulder muscles. The armrest height should allow the forearms to comfortably rest while being low enough to go underneath tables or desks in the work area.
Having a lumbar support either built into the chair or inserting a portable lumbar support helps to maintain your natural lower back curve. These small supports are quite handy, effective and relatively inexpensive.
In regards to the seat bottom angle, it is more of a personal preference than an exact science, as long as a neutral spine can be maintained in comfort. In general, the more the seat bottom tilts forward the more extension of your lower back will occur to keep you in a neutral position.
Lastly, the height of the seat should be so that it allows you to sit all the way back in the seat while your feet are still on the floor. If they can’t touch the floor and you’re stuck with the chair, use a footrest to remedy the problem.
Please keep in mind that these are a few suggestions, but it is always important to be aware of your posture throughout the day and be sure to maintain a neutral spine, which means no slouching. You should take mini breaks on a regular basis when in a prolonged position and remember to stretch. If possible use ergonomically designed furniture and keep a lumbar support in your car for “chair crises.”