You’ve probably heard someone tell you to “sit up straight” at least once in your lifetime. But would that really fix your back pain?
“…no single, ideal sitting posture exists for any length of time. Rather, a variable posture is recommended to minimize the risk of tissue overload.” – Professor Stuart McGill, Low Back Disorders
What turns out to be the problem is too much time in one position. There are certain structures that are being loaded in various positions, and it is best not to be loading the same structures for long periods of time.
This doesn’t only apply to the position you adopt during sitting, but also your position in general. It is important to take regular breaks from sitting (ideally at around 20 minute intervals, but at least once per hour), by standing up or taking a walk. On the other hand, if you stand all day, you may benefit from some periods of sitting.
Another important factor is whether you experience pain and what positions tend to trigger it. For example, some people with disc-related symptoms experience more pain with sitting. Others with overactive back muscles causing pain may experience more pain with unsupported sitting, i.e. without a back rest. Some people may also experience more pain with long periods of standing or walking. It all depends on your unique circumstances, and your work station needs to be set up accordingly.
Some simple tools that may help:
- Reminders on your phone, a sticky note or anything else that nudges you to move
- Chair with a backrest. Backrests can reduce spine loading up to three times by reducing the muscle activity needed to sit upright! Either have a chair that is supportive or add a pillow/back-support to your chair
- Standing Desks. This is a great option that allows you to continue working while making sure you’re spending time in a different position