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How to Keep Your Back Happy While Sitting

Updated on April 26, 2013

Did you know that sitting in one position for long periods of time puts more strain on your back than standing up? According to the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, people are sitting for more than 55 percent of the day. But if you are one of the many people who drive to work, sit at a desk while working, then relax on a bed or couch when you come home, then this number is going to be a lot higher. Here a few tips that will help you continue your sitting routine, without making your back complain about it.

1. Sitting at your desk

You’ve probably heard this before, but posture is the key to helping you achieve a strain-free back. You might have the most expensive, modern and ergonomically-correct chair but if you are not aware of your posture it won’t do much for you.

90 degree angle rule: When you are sitting at your desk, your knees, hips, elbows and ankles should all be bent at 90-degree angles. If you change the angle to any other degree that will put additional stress on your joints and could lead to discomfort and potential back pain.

Relax your shoulders: Shoulders tend to accumulate a lot of tension throughout the day. Make sure you relax them regularly. They should be in the same position as if you where standing.

Keep your back pocket empty: If you’re in the habit of keeping a bunch of items in the back pocket of your jeans, you need to know that this is a big no-no for the wellbeing of your back. It will throw your alignment off and interfere with you having a correct posture.

Check on your posture regularly: It’s easy to fall into bad sitting habits. Create a reminder on your phone or email that will pop up throughout the day, reminding you to correct your posture until this becomes a habit.

Get extra lumbar support: An extra lumbar pillow will give your lower back that extra support necessary for keeping healthy posture.

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2. Sitting in bed

Many of us are using our beds not just for sleeping any more, but also for reading, watching TV and working on our laptop or tablets. Even if you have the most comfortable bed for sleeping in, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is suitable for long hours of sitting in as well. Having bad posture in bed could quickly lead to back, shoulder and neck pain.

Back support pillow: If you tend to sit in bed for long hours, getting a back support pillow is a must. Regular pillows won’t keep their shape and you will find yourself quickly slouching into bad posture. There are a few back support pillow models that have a headrest and armrests, which I find extremely comfortable and supportive. Positioning your arms on the armrests takes away the pressure and weight on your shoulders and upper back (especially important if you are holding a book or a tablet in your hands).

Reclined position: Scientists at the Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen did research on the best possible sitting position. After they looked at the results of the study, they discovered that the 135-degree position was the best for backs. According to them, this is how people should sit. While you probably won’t look very professional sitting like this at your desk, your bed at home is a completely different story. Adjust your back support pillow into a reclining position and enjoy your book while remaining pain-free.

Keep your head back: Many of us tend to keep our head pushed forward, especially when we are reading. Be aware of the posture of your head! We are apt to forget that the head is also part of our spine and, on average, it makes up about eight percent of our whole body mass. In other words, your head is quite heavy, and bad head posture could really add a lot of strain to your neck and shoulders.

Posture Awareness: All of us have had the one morning where we slept the wrong way and woke up in horrible body pain. While it’s difficult to be aware of your posture when you’re asleep, you don’t have an excuse for when you are awake sitting in bed. If you start feeling aches and pains, it is already too late. Make sure you are continuously aware of your posture and that you correct it if necessary in order to keep your back happy.

3. Sitting in your car

It’s not fun driving for long hours in the car, especially for your back. Nearly every driver complains of pain, especially in the lower back during or after driving long distances. Driving with incorrect posture, coupled with vehicle vibrations, could be a truly damaging combination for your body.

Adjust your seat: It’s comical just how many of us don’t pay attention to how well-adjusted our car seat is. If we can reach the wheel and the pedals, that’s usually good enough. However, it’s important that you make sure to adjust your seat every time before driving, aligning the headrest with your head (not too far or too close to the wheel) and ensuring that you aren’t sinking too low in your seat.

Don’t slump in your seat: If you are in the bad habit of driving in a slumped position, that probably means that you haven’t adjusted your car seat well enough and you are compensating for not being able to see the road or for being too far away from the wheel.

Relax: Another reason for slumping could be that you are too nervous or on edge to drive. Maybe you are a new driver and you are questioning your driving skills, or you were in a car accident recently and you don’t feel comfortable driving. Whatever the reason, you need to learn to relax while you are behind the wheel. Take deep breaths and do a few neck stretches while waiting at the red light.

Adjustable lumbar support: Many new cars have a feature for adjusting the lower back support of the car seat. If your car has this feature available, make sure you take advantage of it. If you have an older model car, you can use a rolled towel and tuck it behind your back for a very similar, if not better effect.

Regular breaks: If you are going to be on the road for a while, make sure you make regular stops, even if you don’t really feel you need them. Getting out of the car will improve your blood circulation and will reduce the stress in your spine and back.

How many hours per day do you spend sitting?

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