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PROPER SITTING TECHNIQUES
Dr. Scott Fuller, D.C., C.C.S.T.
Much spinal injury and trauma is a result of cumulative wear and tear postures and the
way we use our body each day. If daily posture and ergonomics are improved you can reduce
tremendous stresses on your spinal discs, joints, and associated tissues and muscles.
Discs thrive on motion. Prolonged sitting increases pressure on discs and decreases
motion, which results in increased disc wear and eventually pain. Most of you have
probably already figured out that the longer you sit the more uncomfortable you become in
your neck, upper back and lower back. There are two main reasons for increased disc and
joint irritation when you sit. First, there is an increase in pressure on the disc when
sitting. For example, when you are lying down, there is approximately 25 pounds per square
inch (psi) of pressure on your disc. This is why many people with acute disc problems tend
to feel somewhat better when lying down. When standing, there is about 100psi of pressure
on the discs or four times that of lying. When sitting the pressure increases to 150psi or
six times that of lying. Sitting and bending forward increases disc pressure all the way
to 185psi, or seven times the pressure when lying down. Second, when you are sitting you
are not moving the discs and joints. This lack of motion and flexibility does not
stimulate the nerve motion sensors (mechanoreceptors and muscle spindles), adversely
affecting nerve traffic to and from the spinal tissues. Third, discs do not have a blood
supply. They rely on transferring nutrients and waste products via osmosis, which is
absorption of materials from surrounding fluids. This activity of osmosis is motion and
flexibility dependent. With prolonged sitting the ability of discs to absorb water and
nutrients and eliminate waste decreases.
Many of you have jobs where you have to sit for prolonged periods. Because we cannot avoid
all sitting, a different strategy needs to be employed to reduce disc trauma and
breakdown. I have several useful ideas you can utilize to reduce the sitting disc
irritation and pain.
1.Frequent breaks frequent breaks are one of the most beneficial things you can do
to decrease disc stress. Standing up, even for a brief moment, can really help decrease
the sitting stress on your spine. Taking longer breaks with some walking is even better.
If your workday requires eight hours in front of your computer, I suggest getting out of
your chair every 15 minutes, even if it is for 5-10 seconds. You will feel significantly
better throughout the day and you may even end up being more productive.
2.Exercises (To be performed under the guidance of your health care practitioner)
While sitting in your chair (or standing) you can take a 20-second break every 30 minutes
and perform 5 spinal twists, 5 side bends, and 1 spinal extension. If you dare, you can
even lie on the floor and do 5 knee rolls! I recommend doing 1 spinal extension exercise
every 15 minutes This spinal extension exercise, if done regularly, will relieve neck,
shoulder and middle back stress.
Long car trips require frequent breaks. I recommend a five-minute break every hour to
reduce disc and joint irritation. I do realize that when many of you are taking a car
trip, you don?t want to take these breaks so you get to your destination faster. Wouldn?t
it be better to arrive at your destination five or ten or fifteen minutes later but
feeling comfortable and energetic rather than stiff, tight, sore and grumpy? I think these
breaks are worth it. Plan ahead and leave a bit earlier so you can take these breaks. At
each stop I recommend a brisk walk for two minutes, and a few of the twists, bends, and
On plane trips you might consider an isle seat so you can get up frequently for standing
and stretching breaks. When I attend post-graduate classes I will often sit near the back
of the room so I can stand as frequently as I want without disturbing others.
There are other ways to increase flexibility and motion while sitting. I call this
strategy ?sitting aerobics.? We tend to naturally squirm when sitting for a long time at
the movies for instance. I recommend performing sitting aerobics well before you get sore
and uncomfortable. You can stretch your lower spine front and back by first pushing your
chest and stomach out followed by pushing your lower back into the seat. When you push
your lower back into the seat, squeeze your abdominal muscles at the same time and this
will increase the efficiency of this movement. Another stretch you can do is a
side-to-side stretch. You can shift your body weight from the left to the right, back and
forth. Pushing one foot into the floor, squeezing your thigh muscles and lifting one side
of your pelvis slightly off your seat can increase the efficiency of this stretch. Then
push with the other leg, contracting your thigh muscles, and lift the other side of the
pelvis off the seat.
Attention needs to be paid to the ergonomics of your work or school station. Computer
monitors tend to be too low and should be placed ABOVE eye level to promote slight
extension of the head and neck, which will help counteract the chin-down posture as you
look at your keyboard, paperwork, telephone, etc. Monitors placed at eye level are not
high enough to provide this benefit. Paperwork should also be raised off the desk surface
whenever possible. Using an angled, drafting style board or clipping paperwork to a higher
position is helpful. When reading try to hold the items at eye level rather than holding
them low and flat. If some items are too heavy to hold, such as textbooks, they can be
propped up at an angle by leaning them on other books or pillow. Changing the organization
of your workstation every two months can help disperse everyday stresses on your body.
Consider changing the position of work items such as the telephone, writing surface,
keyboard, mouse, monitor, and calculator.
For additional information regarding ergonomics, posture, and other strategies to keep
your spine and nervous system healthy, please see Dr. Fuller's upcoming book or call
Fuller Chiropractic at (781) 933-3332
Dr. Scott Fuller, D.C., C.C.S.T., has a private Chiropractic practice in Woburn, MA.
He can be reached at:
Phone: (781) 933-3332
Dr. Fuller has a Cable T.V. show in Woburn and Stoneham, MA, where he discusses a variety
of health and Chiropractic related topics, including STRESSBUSTING.
His practice specializes in injury treatment, sports injuries and peak performance, acute
and chronic pain syndromes, neurological disorders, and child care for ADD, ADHD, learning
disabilities, bedwetting, ear infections, asthma, allergies, and family wellness care.
Dr. Fuller conducts workshops in and out of his office. If you are interested in having
Dr. Fuller speak to your group, organization, or company, please call his office.
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