If you recall the old-school mentality about posture, you’ll remember your parents and teachers constantly harping at you to “sit up straight.” Sitting up straight has always been a sign of alertness, attention, and good posture. However, according to recent studies from the University of Alberta Hospital, sitting in a straight 90-degree angle places more strain on the back than sitting in a slightly reclined and relaxed position does.
Dr. Waseem Amir Bashir, who led the study, used a positional MRI scanner to observe 22 healthy adults with no history of back pain or surgery. He placed them in three different positions: slouching, where the body was hunched forward; upright in a straight-back position with legs and knees at a 90-degree angle; and in a relaxed state, where the legs are lower than the hips and the back is slightly forward with a normal curvature. Dr. Bashir believes the third position is the preferred one, because it is similar to the relaxed, lying down state, and it provides support to the lumbar or lower back region.
Dr. Bashir also believed that harmful spinal disk movement would most likely occur when persons were sitting in this 90-degree sitting position. If your teacher caught you bending forward too much, or slouching, he/she was right to correct you. According to Dr. Bashir, slouching is a bad sitting position for your back.
Tied to your desk all day? If you find that your back is sore halfway through the day, Dr. Bashir advises getting a chair that allows you to sit with proper back support at this relaxed angle. The chair is worth the investment for employers, since back pain is often one of the most common causes of work-related disabilities and absenteeism.
Other tips on keeping your back in tiptop health include:
— Exercise: While you may not want to hear it, regular exercise helps minimize chronic back conditions. Swimming, walking, and cycling allow all your muscles to function properly. Also remember that your abdominal and back muscles work together to give support to your spine. Do sit-ups; they also help. Strength and flexibility in the hips and thighs also promote proper alignment in the pelvic bone, which results in less complications occurring in the lumbar region, sciatic nerve, or disc areas.
— Avoid Remaining in Prolonged Positions: Sitting, standing, or bending and remaining in the same position for long periods of time is not recommended. Take a break for the sole purpose of moving into a different position. Your body will thank you for it.
— Buy a Good Mattress: The commercials are right: It’s important to buy a good mattress that provides enough back support but still has some good flexibility. A medium-firm mattress is recommended. Use a pillow (or pillows) that is not going to cause your neck to be angled straight up; it’s too hard on your alignment.
— Always Bend at the Knees: Remember to bend at the knees when lifting objects and never carry loads that are too heavy. Use a dolly, other equipment, or get another pair of hands to help you out instead of straining your back.
— Quit Smoking: Smoking not only diminishes the amount of oxygen that makes it to your lungs, but it also affects your spinal tissues in the same way. If you have a back injury, smoking can hinder the healing process. So, as if the first article wasn’t cause enough, this fact should make you think about quitting!