When Body Meets Chair

Don’t we all fondly remember our mothers or grandmothers reminding us to “SIT UP STRAIGHT” accompanied with a swift jab to the back?  Well those wise ladies may have been onto something.  Some studies done in the late '80s found that professional-level office workers spend about 70 percent of their time sitting in their offices, usually for periods no less than 45 minutes at a time. Deskbound workers such as telephone operators, telemarketers and data entry workers spend nearly 100 percent of their working time sitting.  Imagine now in 2011, with an even more technology driven society, how those numbers would differ. Many of us are now spending close to 40 hours a week sitting at the workstation.  This in combination with the time spent sitting as we commute to work and relax whilst watching TV could push this number closer to 60-80 hours per week! 

Back pain is increasingly becoming more and more prevalent as a primary concern from office workers, which may be directly linked to their sitting posture. Research findings show that lumbopelvic stabilizing muscles are active when an optimally aligned erect posture is maintained and that these muscles are less active when a more passive posture is adopted.  With repetitive deactivation of these major muscle groups there can become laxity, compensation from other muscle groups, and eventually pain and tension.
Common side effects of poor posture include:

  • Headaches 
  • Neck & Back pain
  • Shoulder, elbow & wrist pain
  • Tendinopathies/overuse injuries
  • Eyestrain

Let’s take a quick snap shot of how you are sitting right now…FREEZE!  Take note of your shoulders, pelvis, legs, feet, and head. Are your/is your:

  • Thighs and arms parallel to ground?
  • Lumbar back support located in the small of the lower back and/or your pelvis gently tilted forward?
  • Feet firmly planted on ground with your legs apart?
  • Shoulders comfortably back with your head looking straight ahead and not leaning forward?
  • Top of the screen at eye level and approximately 50-60 cm away?
  • Keyboard no more than 10 cm from edge of desk?
  • Mouse sitting adjacent to the keyboard?

…I highly doubt it!  Once you find the proper positioning of your body, it should not feel forced or strained; there should almost be a natural balance you can reach that is active yet comfortable.  Also, maintaining good posture over time will help activate and strengthen your core muscles, which correspondingly help maintain good posture as well!
Here are some more quick tips to avoid musculoskeletal strains & sprains:

  • Have regular breaks and avoid sitting for longer than 30-40 minutes at a time
    • Regularly stretch the postural muscles of the neck, shoulders, back and forearms
    • Put a little reminder on your screen to stretch and to have regular breaks
  • Avoid sitting directly underneath an air conditioner where possible
  • Don’t eat lunch at the desk and go for a walk during lunch time
  • Avoid using the phone between your ear and shoulder whilst typing or writing

Happy sitting!

A long time athlete and health advocate,  Dr. Kumentas’ goal is to help her patients become excited about making positive lifestyle choices in order to enjoy healthier, happier lives.  Her driving force is a passion for healing the whole person on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level using carefully selected natural therapies, fitness, and integrated medicine.  She truly believes in the importance of practising what you preach and investing in your health.  
Dr. Nadia Kumentas practices at Zen Beginnings Wellness Centre in Toronto and has a special interest in dermatology, woman’s health, and pain management.

To learn more about Dr. Nadia Kumentas visit www.DrNadiaKumentas.com or contact her at nadia@zenbeginnings.com.

O’Sullivan PB, Grahamslaw KM, Kendell M, Lapenskie SC, Moller NE, Richards KV. The effect of different standing and sitting postures on trunk muscle activity in a pain-free population. Spine 2002;27(11):1238–44.
Sitting at your desk: Reviewing the workplace: Osteopath Heath Williams
Schuldt K, Ekholm J, Harms-Ringdahl K, Nemeth G, Arborelius UP. Effects of changes in sitting work posture on static neck and shoulder muscle activity. Ergonomics 1986;29(12):1525–37.
Importance of Chair Designs That Support the Lower Back - Unknown 

Images from: www.corbis.com


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