Eliminate Sitting and Postural Pain with Ergonomics?
If you have ever experienced pains from sitting (be it back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, etc), there are no shortage of ergonomic experts out there who will tell you the exact way to sit, set up your desk, and even hold onto your mouse to whisk all your troubles away.
The life of a desk jockey and couch potato apparently needs some coaching. After all, most of these pains come from poor sitting and there is a right way to sit and a wrong way… right?
Shoulders down, chin tucked, back erect, head neutral, shoulder blades together – you’re now sitting like a stormtrooper – ergo check done! Now let’s hold this perfect position for eight or more hours at the desk, five or more days per week…. Yeah right!
There are numerous theories around back pain, and just as we cannot attribute all diseases to one cause, we cannot attribute all back pain to a chair – nor one perfect posture as the cure!
Sure, some seated postures (in so-called ergonomically safe chairs) might be better than prolonged periods of so called ‘poorly postured’ chair sitting.
However, besides sitting more upright, the next best thing is actually the thing you do next.
“Huh?” You say.
You see, there is no one posture that is correct ALL of the time.
Just like in the gym, where your body can only do so much of one exercise before it develops an imbalance towards the target muscle groups, so to your body can only do so much of one posture before it starts to have ramifications on the other postures you wish to adopt for various different circumstances.
It is interesting to note here that paraplegics and spinal patients develop bed sores from immobilization and adopting the same constant positions – do you really think you can sit in that storm trooper posture for days on end and not have any adverse ramifications as well?
When you do something frequently enough, your body adapts to it as the norm.
It’s not so much that various seated postures are the problem – its STATIC postures for prolonged periods that are the issue.
Most people who hunch over in a chair towards a desk and keyboard, walk around looking the same way – tight hip flexors, swayed lower back, slumped upper back, and rounded shoulder positions… not to mention those tight hamstrings you get from curling your feet behind you under your chair.
These are all great recipes for back pain and other conditions – but this is only because of the amount of time you spend in these positions more so than the positions themselves.
Your body naturally does not like static positions and constantly tries to fight them for that reason. If you have ever watched a recording of someone sitting, standing, or doing anything else statically for an extended period of time and then speed it up with time lapse photos, you will see how much their body tries to wriggle, dance, and do a number of other different involuntary movements in order to avoid keeping still.
Yes, motion is lotion! If you fidget, shift around, and get restless, it’s a GOOD thing! Your body knows that its better off moving around instead of being stiff and still.
Again, it is not necessarily the chair or your lack of military-style posture that is the problem or the cause of a lot of back pain and other issues – it is the assumption of a singular and unvarying posture for a prolonged period of time that is the problem.
When we think about this more, it is easy to see how static prolonged postures are averse to our bodies.
For instance, we all know the dangers of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) when sitting down too much on a long flight – and this phenomenon can happen regardless of whether you are sitting in economy or business class seats.
Static postures hamper proper blood flow and place increased amounts of stress on the same structures for long periods of time – even imposing unalleviated stress on particular nerves (yes, insert that pain from your butt to your lower leg here).
You have likely heard the term ‘perfect posture’ thrown around as an ideal in which we are to aim for.
Although some postures maybe better than others for various circumstances and there are some that minimise energy expenditure, distribute loading more effectively, and minimise stress placed on endangered regions, the truth is that there is no such thing as a perfect permanent posture that should be adopted all of the time.
Hence, if we are to describe the optimal way to sit, then we would say that there is no one best posture – the best posture is your NEXT posture, and you need to move regularly and avoid maintenance of the same body positions for prolonged periods of time.
But doesn’t my chair matter?
Some ergo experts proclaim that an ‘ergonomic chair’ is the revolutionary chair that is designed to accommodate the human body in perfect posture and solve all of our postural-related pains and problems.
If they took a closer look for a moment and actually observed how they themselves actually sit in one of these chairs, they would quickly realise that any chair designed with a backrest accentuates the tendency for a person to lean against this support where the lumbar spine slumps into an undesirable position of loaded flexion and teaches the body to not fully utilise and train its own structures to maintain an upright position.
Is it any surprise that westerners have higher incidences of back pain and other associated postural pains compared to people from Eastern or more primitive cultures?
These people tend to sit in kneeling, full squat, and even crossed legged seated positions where they cannot lean lazily against something.
And to make matters worse, when the Westerner increasingly fatigues during upright sitting, he slumps and slides down even further into a state of increased lumbar flexion….whereas his eastern and more primitive counterparts change the positions of their limbs and other body parts as required.
But I get issues besides sitting….
Sure, sitting for prolonged periods can be bad for you, but the same can be true for standing – hips, backs, and knees in particular can be overloaded inappropriately with prolonged standing positions.
Again, assuming a static posture of ANY kind for prolonged periods of time will cause issues.
If you have slept on your shoulder a certain way all night you should know all about this.
Although pressure on your intervertebral discs is least prevalent during lying body postures, you are still not immune in these positions.
Hospital patients who lay down for prolonged periods in bed often complain of severe back pain, bed sores, and other conditions as a result of these positions.
Even our Eastern and Third World friends can get low back pain if they sit in a deep squat for too long where their pelvis is tucked their body.
As you can now see, it’s not so much your body position or your chair that is responsible for all your postural-related pains and discomforts.
Rather, it is more so the amount of time under load and stress that is placed on particular areas of the body that is the issue.
Your technique or pattern of movement in which you execute exercises or come out of particular positions is also a contributing factor to how much stress you expose certain parts of your body to.
To safeguard your body from developing postural related pains and conditions, it is key to remember that you are made to move around and not be a statue.
Motion is lotion and your best posture is usually the next one you adopt.
Are you unsure of what positions you can and can’t get your body into without hurting it?
Are you unsure of how long you can be in certain postures without causing yourself pain?
Do you feel particularly tight or sore in certain areas of the body and you’re unsure of why?
If you’re serious about getting answers to these kinds of questions, then reach out to one of our expert coaches.
It’s not ok to feel perpetually tight, restricted and ultimately in pain with your body.
Fill in your details below to get help from one of our expert coaches today……or you can continue to do the same thing you have always done and continue to get the same outcomes you always have.