Give your back a rest from the back rest

Life in modern times can be navigated from the comfort of the office chair. Though life has become a lot less strenuous the incidence of injury is not on the decrease with back and neck injuries resulting from weak backs, unable to cope with simple every day tasks like typing a shoe lace.  

Finding the Neutral Lumbar Spine.  Start by adopting a slouched ‘posteriorly rotated’ pelvis. Then arch your back into maximum extension. After repeated this bottom rolling for 2-3 times, try to locate the mid-position. This will set your spine in neutral for the particular chair and height being sat upon.
Finding the Neutral Lumbar Spine. Start by adopting a slouched ‘posteriorly rotated’ pelvis. Then arch your back into maximum extension. After repeated this bottom rolling for 2-3 times, try to locate the mid-position. This will set your spine in neutral for the particular chair and height being sat upon.

Article provided by Carlo Conti

Motion is everything.  Everything we do in mind and body translates into motion. Thoughts create motion, and emotions translate into action. Being awake or asleep, human beings never cease to move. Through movement, we express our feelings, get jobs done, play and have fun and contribute to shaping the world around us.  

However with the use of technology we can now accomplish most of our daily tasks from the sitting position. We socialize, commute, dine and study in a seated position.  Most of all, a big part of today’s work force gets the job done from sitting 8 to 10 hours a day. One can easily agree that office work carried out in sitting is less physically demanding than manual work. Then why is it that most chronic back pain sufferers come from this sedentary, relatively “non strenuous” work force?  

All research points towards one predominant factor – our backs are becoming weaker through sheer comfort. The chairs we sit on are valued for their aesthetic appeal first and cushioning comfort second.  Chairs that act like sofas on stilts are the epitome of good sitting – or so it is thought. The fact is that the human body and the spine are not impressed nor benefit from these ego-massaging gadgets. For most backs and spines, sitting ergonomics in the majority of today’s offices is poor.    

Most of us are familiar with the concept of ‘good’ sitting posture – straight neck and back with the hips and knees held at right angles. This kind of sitting posture, also known as Victorian sitting, was based on postural alignment that was exclusive of soft tissues such as muscles. 

In reality, this kind of posture is not good at all. Adopting this posture in sitting generates too much muscle activity in the lower back to counterbalance the backward torque created by the hip muscles on the pelvis. Sooner rather than later a person sitting with an overly erect spine will experience fatigue and fall in a slouch. 

A slouched posture held for extended periods of time not only stresses the spinal discs and lead to spinal joint pain, but it also leads to compensatory hyperextension of the neck as the person tries to maintain a forward gaze.  

Been suffering from terrible headaches lately, aggravated by prolonged sitting?  Now you have a clue where these headaches could be coming from.

The second problem arising from sitting in luxurious and comfortable chairs for prolonged periods of time is muscle weakness. Like all other muscles in the body, the stabilizing muscles of the vertebral column need to be exercised. Sitting in what looks more like a cushioned-cast for the spine results with our spinal musculature being rested for 8 hours a day – and another 8 hours at night. 

Once this scenario is acknowledged, it is easy to imagine what happens to the muscles that keep our spine upright, stable and healthy. They get weakened, atrophic and lose the ability to keep the spine stable. Have you ever seen an elderly patient get on their feet following three weeks in bed?  That’s exactly how our spines behave following a long period of immobility.  

This weakening of the spine is what causes so many individuals to injure their back out of the office as they bend down to pick up a pen, do their laces or any other seemingly trivial deed that loads their spine.  

Luckily, the solution is easy. Research suggests that we should adopt a sitting position that places the hips higher up in relation to the knees. This position will diminish the tension generated in our bottom muscles that force our spine into a slouch.  Sitting on the front edge of the seating pan and adopting a neutral lumbar spine in this elevated position, allowing the entire spine up to the neck, to be kept in perfect alignment and with minimal effort.  

Our backs are becoming weaker through sheer comfort

Adopting a neutral lumbar spine is done by rolling the pelvis forward and backwards to the end of range and then locating the mid position of this movement. This sitting position will see us loading our legs more and help us maintain an active back during our day. It is no surprise that when our backs are better-aligned and less prone to discomfort, we will find ourselves focusing more on the quality of our work.  

Back muscles get weakened, atrophic and lose their ability to keep the spine stable through inactivity

A word of caution is that, like all muscles subjected to a new form of exercise, mild discomfort in the supporting muscles of the back is to be expected.  The sitting posture being hereby advocated is considered optimal, but one should start adopting it in half-hour increments per day. Once the muscles of the back adapt and become stronger, the stability of the spine is maintained in both sitting and, more importantly, when we’re out there having fun. 

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