Although numerous studies have concluded that a sedentary lifestyle can lead to serious back problems, among other serious health conditions, the average person spends approximately 55 % of their waking hours sitting, according to a Vanderbilt University study. Holding still positions for long periods of time can cause stiffness and tension around the spine, which can lead to short-term or even permanent lower back conditions.
If a sedentary lifestyle is the cause of low back pain, why do so many of us sit during our waking hours? To understand why, just look at modern work habits. Many of us spend 8 hours a day (if not more) sitting at a desk as part of a typical work or school day. While there's nothing inherently wrong with using desks and computers to conduct business, the way our work areas are arranged, our posture, and the level of activity we engage in throughout the day can put our spines at risk.
Here are some suggestions on how to change your work or study environment, as well as your personal habits, to keep your spine healthy.
1.Adjust Your Workspace
Proper care for your back starts with adjusting your work environment. Whether you use an office desk or another type of workstation, you need to set it to a height that you will be most comfortable working at for long periods of time.
Once you've determined the optimal height for your desk, you need to choose the right seating. An ergonomic chair is a great option; however, keep in mind that simply having one is not enough to protect your back. Whether you use a traditional office chair or an ergonomic option like a Swedish kneeling chair or a Swiss exercise ball, you'll also need to adjust to your proportions.
Here is how to make sure your chair is properly adjusted.
Adjust the height of your chair: Sit as close to your desk as possible. With upper arms parallel to spine, place hands on tabletop. Your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle. If your elbows are lower than the tabletop, adjust the height of the chair up or down until your arms form the correct angle.
Adjust Your Armrests: An ideal chair has armrests and they should be adjusted to slightly lift your shoulders. Doing so will not only reduce the strain placed on your upper spine and shoulders, but it will also make you less likely to slouch forward.
Adjust the backrest: Leaning your body against the backrest, make a fist and place it between the back of your calf and the front of the chair. If you don't have enough room for your fists, then your chair is too deep and the backrest needs to be adjusted forward. If the back of your chair doesn't adjust, you can use a cushion or rolled up towel to support your lower back.
keep objects within arm's reach: By keeping the items you use most within easy reach, you reduce the need to stretch and thus reduce the risk of ligament strains. At the same time, this avoids the need to "break" your current position, helping you maintain correct posture for longer periods of the day.
2. Practice proper posture
While optimal settings for your office chair and desk are important, maintaining a healthy spine also requires active use of your muscles to maintain proper posture. Leaning forward or backward can strain the muscles, ligaments, discs, and other parts of the back. Over time, poor sitting posture can even increase the stress on other parts of the body, including the shoulders, arms and legs.
To minimize back stress, you should sit as close to your desk as possible with your head straight, upper arms parallel to your spine, and hands resting on the work surface at a 90-degree angle. Your legs should also be at a 90-degree angle, directly over your ankles. If you've properly sized your workspace following the guidelines above, you're already in the right place.
3. Stay active
While proper posture can minimize the force of gravity on your spine, it won't solve your problem of staying still for long periods of time. While you should take every opportunity to stay active at work, at least you should stretch at least once in the first half, middle, and towards the end of the day. If you find it difficult to set aside a few minutes throughout the day to stretch all parts of your body, you can stretch one area at a time when transitioning from room to room, or as a dedicated part of your lunch.
Our time at work or school accounts for the majority of our sitting time. By adjusting your work environment and personal habits, you can significantly reduce the stress on your back throughout your life. But remember, sitting for long periods of time, whether at work or not, can be harmful. So it's also important to make the necessary adjustments in other areas of your life to ensure your back is well taken care of.