Not sitting properly in chairs is truly one of the hazards of the modern age. Especially if you have back pain.
Most of the chairs we sit in are badly designed. Really badly. They’re designed for how they look, not how they work. The only consistent exception to this rule is the modern office chair, but even the low range of these are usually pretty poor. So start looking about mid range.
Lounges are even worse than most chairs, giving very little support where it is needed. After 5000 years of sitting on chairs we still as a culture, overall, haven’t got a clue. Or at least our seat designers don’t.
Keep your pelvis and spine properly aligned
When sitting on something it should help keep your pelvis and spine properly aligned. They should be aligned the same as when you are standing up tall.
Most seating, especially lounges tend to encourage us to sit in a slumped posture with our lumbar spine, lower back, curving forward, instead of curving backwards like it should. This happens because as we sit down without lumbar (low back) support, the top of our pelvis rolls backwards.
Squished discs and strained joints
When this happens you compress the discs at the front of your spine, especially the lumbars, and it also puts an excessive stretch on the muscles, ligaments and joint capsules at the back of your lumbar spine. This causes strain, pain and excessive wear.
In the front, your organs get compressed as the bottom of your ribcage moves closer to the front of your pelvis. Higher up, the front of your ribcage also gets squashed down and this restricts how well it can move and forces you to shallow breathe.
Higher still and your head gets forced forward in front of your centre of gravity. To accommodate this it has to tilt back, so you can keep looking straight ahead, and this causes compression and strain of the facet joints and muscles at the back of your neck. This can cause neck and shoulder pain, headaches and fatigue.
If your hands are out in front of you, typing or whatever, this multiplies the forces working on your torso and spine.
Rest your hands on your desk, where you would normally use a keyboard or do whatever, and ever so s-l-o-w-l-y lift them up. Pay attention to the effect it has on your torso and spine. Do it really slowly for the best effect. Your arms weigh more than you may think and having them out in front of you creates leverage which increases the effect they have on the rest of you.
As you can see and feel, sitting with a poor posture can cause or exacerbate a variety of problems.
Ordinarily most people won’t notice this because they have been sitting like this all of their lives but if you have pain in your low back, oh boy do you notice it!
One thing that happens automatically when you have low back pain is that you sit correctly, with your pelvis and spine properly aligned, because it hurts the least.
If you sit half or three quarters of the way back in a chair, your pelvis has to roll backwards for your back to make contact with the backrest. The whole of your lower and upper back curves forward and your neck has to crank backwards and you have settled into your bad posture for the day.
Ideally, your pelvis and spine should be aligned the same when you are sitting down as when you are standing up.
When you sit down, make sure your backside goes right to the back of the seat. This way your pelvis doesn’t roll back and you come into contact with any lumbar support the chair, or lounge has. If there is no support you can use a cushion even a pillow on the lounge to give your lumbar spine the support it needs.
You don’t need to sit bolt upright. It’s more comfortable and less effort to tilt backwards a little.
Ideally your thighs should be sloping down a little to your knees. This helps keep the pelvis tilted forward and properly positioned, which is of course, hugely important. Having your thighs level is just barely OK, and having them slope up to your knees definitely needs to be rectified.
One of the reasons some people have such trouble sitting in cars is because the position of your legs can help roll your pelvis backwards. The higher your knees the more likely you’ll have problems with your back.
Keep your pelvis and spine properly aligned
With car seats the best things you can do are raise the back of the seat as high as it will go to help the forward tilt of your pelvis and push the lumbar support out enough to do it’s job, support your lumbar (lower) spine. The aim of all this is of course to keep your pelvis and spine properly aligned to minimize strain and pain.
So if you have a bad back, the next time you are in the market for a car, make the seat and seating position a major criteria for what car you buy. Take it for a long test drive if you can. 4 wheel drives tend to be much better than sports cars because they put you in more upright posture.