Under Pressure The Points of Pressure
Standing with correct posture should feel comfortable and easy. When you stand well, this puts ‘normal’ pressure on the lower back (the lumbar) and is classed as 1 on the ‘lumbar pressure scale’. When you lay down on your side, the lumbar pressure Reduces by 25% to 0.75 and laying flat on your back (supine) reduces the pressure further again dramatically by 75% from when you are standing upright with good posture to just 0.25.
However, modern life including the pressures of current lockdown living, means we are even more sedentary, as so many of us work from home. Sitting down is quite simply, not healthy for our backs. Even sitting with good posture loads our lower back, increasing normal pressure by nearly half as much again to 1.4! It is hard to maintain a good sitting position when the demands of home working can result in many hours sat down. As the hours pass, posture does deteriorate into a slouch, which nearly doubles lumbar pressure, to over 80% at 1.85.
So, please, no slouching! Regardless, we still have to work at a computer and sit down, so how do you check that you are sitting comfortably? Here’s how. 1. Sit back in your chair. Your lower back needs support, so sit right back. 2. Sit equally. All of your seated body weight rests on your sitting bones (the base of your pelvis) so sit evenly on them. If you have ever got the saddle position wrong on your bicycle, these are the bones which feel sore! Your behind muscles (the glutes) are very strong and the largest muscles in your body. They support your spine, so sit evenly on your rear cheeks! 3. Sit upright which reduces lumbar pressure, so push your pelvis forwards and then sit back. You should feel your lower back against the back of your chair. 4. Shoulders back and down. Pull your shoulder blades back to expand your chest and pull them downwards towards the seat. This activates your trapezius and rhomboid muscles, which both move your shoulder blades up and down.
The trapezius (traps) is a set of diamond shaped muscles, running from the back of your neck, through to your shoulder blades and then down to your upper middle back. The traps can hold a lot of tension as these muscles support and lift your arms. When we are tense from emotion, stress or typing on a computer, the muscles can be constantly contracted as we lift our arms to type. Retracting the shoulder blades, reduces neck and shoulder tension, which can cause discomfort and pain.
5. Head and neck in line. Try not to jut your chin forwards or draw backwards. Your head is heavy and it is important to balance the head well upon your spinal column. Keep your head level with your line of sight to avoid over-stretching or straining your neck. Try not to look down or up. Lift your feet perhaps? Resting your feet on a cushion or foot stool may prevent over-stretching your legs, which causes you to tilt the pelvis backwards and over-arches the lower back. So check your thighs are at 90 degrees to the floor. Think ‘right angle!’ 7. All within reach? Ensure things are close to you, so you avoid overreaching. Finally, avoid long periods of sitting down and make sure you take regular breaks by walking around and get outside daily for some fresh air.