Here’s Why You Need To Sit Up Straight
Did you know that getting into a habit of good posture helps you avoid back pain?
Hang On, Help Is On The Way
I spend a goodly part of my time helping people to set up their chair, desk and monitor.
I’ve learnt a lot just watching how people sit. A high proportion of people, particularly males under 40 spend their life in the ‘slump dog’ position. Worse still they work on their lap top computer.
Treat your lap top as a central processing unit. Connect it to a good monitor, a key board and a mouse. You won’t be able to get into an ideal workstation position if you’re using a lap top. They should be banned from the workplace.
I’ve learnt a lot from sitting in people’s chairs whilst trying to set them up properly. There are some dreadful chairs out there, worn out chairs, broken down chairs that you can’t adjust properly.
I’ve learnt a lot from watching people sitting at desks that are not right for their height. I see small people sitting at desks that are the right height for giants.
I’ve learnt a lot from watching the agony induced by tight calf, hamstring and buttock muscles when people can’t sit on the floor, close in to the wall with their legs out in front of them, or sit up straight with legs crossed.
Finally I’ve learnt a lot from watching the futile attempts of people to do a single situp or pressup. If you can’t do 30 situps and 30 pressups on the trot you’re leaving yourself wide open to musculo-skeletal dysfunction. People don’t realize the important role that stomach muscles play in enabling them to sit up straight and bracing themselves to lift something.
The Sitting Down Vicious Cycle
People wonder why they have sore necks, shoulder and backs. It’s not hard to determine why they’re in pain when you know they’ve been feeding the sitting down vicious cycle for 30 years.
The great tragedy of sitting down jobs is that when people experience pain they rush off to a manipulative therapist, who likely as not will rub, crunch, heat and vibrate the spot where it hurts, rather than showing them how to sit up straight at a desk and introducing them to the set of strength and flexibility exercises designed to get the musculo-skeletal system back into good health.
Sit Up Straight!
Sit up straight! You have to because the ergonomists are yet to design a chair which will stop you from slouching.
The definition of slouching is ’tilting your pelvis back’, contorting your spinal column into the ‘C’ shaped position, ie: taking the natural ‘S’ shaped curve out of your lumbar spine.’
As a consequence your head and shoulders are tipped forward. That’s why you get sore shoulders and a stiff neck.
Over time, the slouch position contributes to a tightening of your calf, hamstring and buttock muscles. When that happens. Your pelvis tilts back even further. When it does that the vertebrae above it gradually move out of alignment. Back pain becomes worse.
Back pain is therefore a symptom of a pelvis which is out of alignment, which in turn is a symptom that some of the muscles attached to it are too tight.
Over time the slouch position becomes even more exaggerated. You’ve set up the vicious cycle of musculo-skeletal dysfunction.
The good news is that for most people the condition is eminently fixable.
If you lack the strength to support your torso and head while you work you’re setting yourself up for back, neck and shoulder pain.
If you’re in pain, chances are muscles attached to your pelvis and spine – front, back and sides – aren’t strong enough to support your spinal column.
Your neck muscles aren’t strong enough to keep your head on the top of your shoulders!
If you’re in pain, chances are your shoulder and arm muscles aren’t strong enough to keep your arms, wrists and fingers suspended in mid air out in front of you for long periods of each working day.
You wonder why you get sore shoulders, wrists and fingers.
You wonder why you’re always hanging out for a shoulder and neck massage.
What’s Stopping You From Sitting Up Straight?
Answer, nothing. What part of ‘keep the back of your seat upright and your abdomen pressing into the desk’ don’t you understand?
It’s definitely not a lack of thinking about sitting up straight.
Just thinking about sitting up straight won’t do much for your back. You can only think about sitting up straight for a couple of minutes and then your mind wanders off to think about something else. As soon as you stop thinking about sitting up straight you start slouching – unless you’re locked in between the back of your chair and your desk.
Sit Up Straight
- You do need a good chair, one that provides good upper back support. Chairs that provide good back support and are comfortable to sit on don’t cost $800.
- Take the arm rests off your chair so you can get your chair close into your desk.
- Lock yourself in
Move your chair in as close to your desk as you can. Your abdomen should be pressing into the desk.
If your chair is a long way away from your desk, there’s a good chance you’ll adopt the slouch position
Adjust the back rest to an upright position so your lower back and mid- thoracic spine are well supported.
You’ll know you’re locked in when the back of the chair is pushing into your lower and mid-thoracic back and your abdomen is pushing into the desk.
Spend Some Time Each Day On A Balans Chair
I don’t know why more organisations don’t recommend the Balans chair to their staff, or why staff don’t get one for themselves and bring it in to work.
When you sit on the Balans chair you immediately sit up straight with the ‘S’ shaped curve in your spinal column.
The reason you sit up straight is that tight calf, hamstring and buttock muscles are excluded from the sit down equation. You will automatically sit up straight with an ‘S’ shape curve in your spine.
I read somewhere that some people can’t sit for long on these chairs because it hurts their knees. If that’s the case spend part of your day sitting on one. If you’ve got tight hamstring and buttock muscles this is definitely worth considering.
When sitting down’s the killer, I don’t know why more people don’t stand up to work. Stand up desks are becoming the flavour of the year.
Desks are readily available for even the most modest of investments.
Here’s what their online blurb says:
They say that sitting down has become the new smoking – that’s how bad it is for your health.
That being the case organise a workstation that allows you to stand up while you work.
If ‘they’ won’t get you an adjustable desk, get a box to put your keyboard and mouse on, tilt the monitor back a bit and you’re in business.
No-one ever said you have to sit down all day. In the history of the world this is a very recent phenomenon. It’s one of the reasons why 30 – 40% of people have lower back pain.
Three Final Secrets
Finally I want to share with you three secrets to becoming pain free.
The first is to sit up straight at your desk.
The second is to do the flexibility exercises designed to bring your skeleton back into good alignment. Here are two must do exercises. Do the first one every day in the shower. It will loosen your hamstrings. The second one loosens buttock muscles.
The third is to do the strength exercises that support your musculo-skeletal system and enable it to do every day tasks without breaking down.
Neither chair, nor desk, nor monitor, nor keyboard, nor mouse, nor doctor, nor physio, nor chiro, nor surgeon, nor chemist, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing known to mankind will protect you from lower back, neck, shoulder and wrist pain if you don’t sit up straight.
If you’d like a copy of My Flexibility Routine, click on the book cover below.
These are the exercises I do myself to stave off back pain.