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Better sitting, better health!

I have now been practising as an osteopath for over 20 years and am horrified at the number of patients I treat with issues related to a sedentary lifestyle. With the fast advances in modern technology, those that are office based seem to have less and less reason to get up from their desk or be out and about from the office.

We are not designed to sit

Today most of the population are employed in sedentary jobs as opposed to 80% being employed in agriculture until the start of the 19th century. In addition, many people choose to have hobbies that are also sedentary. For a large percentage of the population they drive to work, sit at work and sit in the evening, whether in front of the television or socialising with friends.

Unfortunately, this change in lifestyle has led to the dramatic increase in back pain and other musculoskeletal problems as well as cardiovascular disease.

So why do we need to move?

Putting aside cardiovascular disease, our spines require motion to stay healthy. We’ve all heard the expression ‘use it or lose it’ and not ‘using it’ can lead to joint stiffening and muscle weakening. The spine needs strong muscles to support and protect it and together with the pelvis, the spine provides a base for many muscle attachments for the upper and lower body. If the back muscles weaken, it can increase the load on the spine and result in injury to the discs.

Tips on sitting correctly

As an Osteopath, treating these common complaints, I frequently ask patients about their workstations and provide ergonomic advice. The best bit of advice I can give is to sit as little as possible and when you do, take a break every 20 minutes. When you are sitting, ensure that you adopt a good posture and maintain the S-shape in your spine. You also need to make sure that:

  • Your seat is at the correct height to ensure your feet are flat on the floor and that your forearms, when relaxed, can rest comfortably on your desk with your elbows angled at 90 degrees.
  • The seat of your chair should be slightly slanted forward so that your knees are lower than your hips. This maintains the curve in your lower back.
  • The back rest should fit comfortably into the small of your back, providing support.
  • The top of your computer screen should be at eye level.

Active sitting

If you have to sit, active sitting is better than inactive sitting! When we think about active sitting, we normally think of very expensive office chairs where the seat angle changes constantly. However, there are much cheaper alternatives. The Sissel Sitfit (in stock at The Odiham Clinic from £28.95) is an air filled cushion, which can be placed on your chair. It makes your seat unstable and active, forcing you to sit with a good posture whilst strengthening up those all important supporting muscles.

So if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, why not improve your back health by better sitting?