You don’t have to be Charles Darwin to understand our modern lifestyles weren’t exactly the way evolution planned things for our spines. Instead of being on our feet chasing around after dinner, we’re stuck in an office in a chair that could be torturing our collective backs.
At Summit Healthcare Pain Clinic Associates, Dr. Trujillo and our team spend much of our time helping patients work through their back pain. Toward that end, maybe your office chair is a culprit in some of these problems. Here’s what is the potential problem with your chair, along with what to look for when you request a new one.
Sitting isn’t the best thing
Sitting all day in a chair that doesn’t provide adequate back support can cause or exacerbate lower back pain. Why does it do this? When you are seated, the lumbosacral discs at the base of the spine are loaded three times more than when you are standing. At first thought, this makes no sense. But when sitting, your legs aren’t helping carry the load; it’s mostly impacting your lower spine. If your chair doesn’t have adequate spine support, this will lead to poor posture, which stresses the soft tissues and joints in the spine leading to pain.
Part of the problem is also the way we sit. If we sit and shift our weight forward in our desk chair, this also increases stress on the soft tissue, joints, and discs. This leads to muscle tension and back pain.
And it’s not just at work. We’re sitting at night watching TV or when watching a kid’s baseball game. This can lead to habitual bad posture such as hunching or slouching.
What you want in your office chair
It’s easy to think that our spine is relatively straight, but the lower portion of the spine just above the buttocks naturally curves inward toward the belly. This is known as the lordotic curve. What’s important is to provide support to this area of the back. A lumbar back support helps promote good posture by filling the gap between the lumbar spin (which is curving inward) and the seat.
When your chair provides this kind of support, the muscles surrounding the spine are relieved of much of their job of having to keep the spine naturally curved. The lumbar support does the job, taking pressure off the muscles, reducing the muscle tension that can lead to back pain.
But when your chair doesn’t provide lumbar support, it’s difficult to maintain correct posture. Without support, your lumbar spine and the large muscles in your lower back have to work to support the proper spine curvature and alignment. Over the day, as the body tires, the muscles holding the spine in the correct position weaken. To compensate, we tend to push our head and upper back forward. This forward lean leads to more muscle tension and eventual back pain.
What you can do
Beyond having lumbar support in your chair (which can be supplied by a simple pillow if the chair doesn’t provide it), there are positions to best support your back and neck.
- Your office chair should have elbow supports to limit neck strain. Elbows should rest on the elbow supports at right angles.
- Your knees should be bent at a right angle. Use a footrest to attain this, if necessary.
- Your eyes should look straight ahead at your computer screen, not downward.
A new desk chair should be in your future. But if your back pain still endures, it could be a good time to come see us at Summit Healthcare Pain Clinic Associates. Call us at (928) 532-1605 to make an appointment.