Ordinary conventional sitting destroys the metabolism in the lower back. Over time this leads to tissue degeneration, pain, movement restrictions and expensive treatments.
Globally, millions of people suffer from back pain and retire early because of back problems. Back pains cause millions of days of sick leaves, and in addition, productivity decreases whenever pain makes work difficult. Huge amounts of money are spent for back operations and analgesics.
The situation can be easily and cheaply prevented by replacing the work chair by a swinging two-part saddle chair and by acquiring a height-adjustable table for office work. However, ergonomic furniture alone is not enough, one needs to take responsibility for their own well-being through learning how to adjust the furniture and use the adjustments, paying attention to working positions, and taking breaks during the work days.
The source of back problems
The structures of the spine almost inevitably suffer in the bad sitting position – the back is rounded and the position slouched – that places the strain and pressure unevenly on the disks.
The pelvis is tilted backwards, because its bone structures making the neutral pelvic position impossible when the thighs and upper body are in a 90 degrees angle. In this position, the facet joints that support the spinal vertebrae cannot function, which increases the load on the disks by about a third. The vertebrae press the disks unevenly, increasing the risk of prolapse and gradual thinning of the disks.
In the rounded back muscles stretch and tighten, thus disturbing blood circulation. Lumbar spine problems are also facilitated by the lack of a vertebral artery around the lowest vertebra, which results in getting less nutrients and oxygen.
Other effects of incorrect sitting position
In a poor sitting position, the head protrudes causing muscle tension, headaches, and wearing of the cervical facet joints. The position of the shoulder is detrimental to the shoulder joint and causes, for example, pain caused by the problems of the rotator cuff.
The internal organs in the abdominal cavity and the pelvic bowl are pressed together when the slouched position presses the chest down. The lungs do not have enough space to expand, so breathing is not optimal. Hence, tension in the neck muscles slows down the cerebral circulation.
Prevention and treatment
The most important aspect for back health is good posture. In addition, movement is required to activate the circulation and lymph flow.
The only functional way for a good sitting position, without causing any other ailments, is to use an anatomically shaped, two-part and swinging saddle chair. The middle gap allows the pelvis to settle in its upright position without uncomfortable and detrimental compression in the genital area, pelvic floor, and tail bone. The upper body can remain upright and relaxed. The clothes should be loose, because tight clothing prevents one from getting into a good position and interferes with the fluid circulation.
A height-adjustable table is needed with a saddle chair because the sitting position is higher than usual; in the best case, the table has a belly pocket, for example a recess in front of the stomach. Then the chair can be rolled “inside” the table and the table gives support for elbows. In an upright position, the elbows are placed directly under the shoulders. Another factor of preventive ergonomics is to place the monitor(s) in order for the viewing angle to be almost straight ahead, and to use padded supports under the elbows.
It is advantageous to have regular breaks and use gym equipment (kettle bell, hanging bar, etc.) to improve back health during work days. Walking or climbing stairs significantly improves the circulation in legs and back. Also, exercise prevents back problems, but even a few hours of active weekly exercise do not reset the consequences caused by hours of sitting in a bad position.
When the working environment allows a good working position and one utilises the potential of ergonomic furniture and breaks, and is as active as possible, there is a good chance of rehabilitating the back problems that have already arisen and preventing the emergence of new ones.