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Posture - Sitting
When people sit down, they often do so very badly.
For example, the vast majority of people sit down with their buttocks too far from the back of the chair.
In this position, their lumbar spine is not supported, and people often lean backwards. This causes the lower back to curve away from the base of the chair (shown below); as a result, the joints in the spine are compressed, the intervertebral discs become squashed and the wrong muscles are engaged.
People who use a computer also tend to lean forwards (shown below). This time, the upper back curves away from the chair, and the shoulders curve in, and down, towards the chest. To maintain the line of sight, the angle between the neck, and the back of the head, is reduced. This compresses the neck.
In addition to this, the head (which on average weighs about 5 kg or 11 pounds) is positioned in front of the spine, as opposed to on top of it.
This increases the strain on the neck and shoulder muscles substantially. Fatigue and muscle tension will result.
To correct this, most people will tell you to sit upright, on your sitting bones (or ischia). This is done by sitting down and then rolling your weight forward onto your pelvis. It is easier to practice on a hard chair: when you roll forward, you should be able to feel your ischia in contact with the surface of the chair.
The sitting bones (ischia)
However, whilst this is definitely better than slouching, it is not the best way to sit (most people tend to over-arch their lower back by forcing their weight forward).
Instead, you should sit with your buttocks close to the back of the chair, then lean back into the chair, so that your lower back is supported (shown below). This may be difficult to achieve without the use of a small cushion, placed behind your lower back. In addition to this, keep your upper back and neck straight, with your head supported over your neck. This can be done by gently pulling your head back, whilst keeping it horizontal.
Do not tip your head back; this will compress the neck, without correcting the curve in the upper back. Keep both feet planted on the ground (do not cross your legs or ankles) and, if sitting for a long period of time, make sure that you take regular breaks. Get up and move around.
Sitting at the Computer
If you are sat using a computer, the following, additional points should be noted:
Make sure that the desk is high enough for you to comfortably rest your forearms on it. If it is too low, you will either be forced to lean forward, or keep your forearms up.This is extremely important. If you lean forwards, your upper back will curve away from the chair. If your forearms are left unsupported, you may develop repetitive strain injury (for example, carpal tunnel syndrome).
If the desk is too high, either adjust your chair, or sit on a cushion to raise yourself up. You must be able to support your forearms comfortably.
To increase your forearm support, ensure that your keyboard is flat (rather than sloping up) and rest your forearms on some magazines so that they are level with, or slightly higher than, the keyboard. This will also lessen the strain when using the mouse.
If you are using a separate keyboard and monitor, try to adjust the height of the monitor, so that it is just below eye level. This will be possible when using a laptop. Do not raise the height of your laptop (it is more important to support your forearms correctly, than it is to adjust the height of the screen).
Position your keyboard towards the edge of the desk (in the region of 15cm away). If you have to stretch to reach the keyboard, either your back or shoulders will curve forwards (or both).
Check your posture on a regular basis. It is very easy to become engrossed in what you are doing. As you concentrate more, you may find yourself bending forwards, tipping your head back, and slouching.
You should also:
Decompress your spine by using the Backrack™ on a regular basis. This will help to keep your back flexible and healthy.
Make sure that you strengthen the deep, stabilising muscles in a controlled manner. This will reduce the risk of injury, and keep your back strong. For more details, please visit our section on Exercises.