My 22-year-old friend comes with cushions to office to get better relief from the agonizing lower back pain! My 60-year-old mother suffers from back pain to the extent that she refuses to sit together for a continuous 30 minutes but keeps walking, sitting, doing some household chore, then again walking and sitting. This is her regular day-to-day schedule and it doesn’t matter where she sits-in a chair, on the comfy couch or the plush sofa at the five-star restaurant-all that she gets is a constant back pain that has become her best friend nowadays. So, she has started accepting the fact that sitting down would indeed be a pain in her ass, literally too! Maybe, its not sitting that causes pain but how we sit that exists as the root cause of all our problems.
None of us are innately born with the knowledge to use our bodies rightly but we do have certain inbuilt skills that help us. For instance, infants and toddlers tend to sit correctly but as they grow up sitting for long hours in schools in chairs designed by us adults who seem to have forgotten the right way to sit, their postures too become inappropriate. The human body has 206 bones each of which has a definite purpose for its existence. When we exert too much pressure on those muscles that are not meant for such extreme forces in the first place they result in pain. Our ancestral hunter-gatherers lived by hunting for food, cooking using fire, dug for tubers, chopped nuts with stones and worked hard to get their hands on every wild edible food possible. Basically, they moved more, walked a lot at a great speed and used their upper body tremendously to do chores. Our bodies were not meant to sit down for such long hours but industrialization, job cultures and lifestyle changes have immensely changed the way we live, work, sit, move and stand. So, we cannot keep blaming the evolution of the world into what it is today. While we take privilege of the technological improvements, pleasures, medical advancements and opportunities that this world has to offer it is equally right that we groom ourselves into individuals who adapt to these changes with a positive frame of mind and work towards a better quality of life.
Why Can’t we See the ‘C’ in Our Postures?
If you notice from sideways, its obvious that most of us sit like cashew nuts on a chair-our back is curved like the letter C where the shoulders curve over and the butts curve under which hurts our backs (https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/08/13/636025077/to-fix-that-pain-in-your-back-you-might-have-to-change-the-way-you-sit). Such a posture also hurts the spine, the shock absorbers called the intervertebral disks and can cause disk degeneration in course of time. Now it sounds familiar isn’t it? Yup, many of us suffer from disk collapse, disc degeneration and dislocation.
Slouched shoulders, curved backs and drooped necks immediately calls for our parents, teachers and others’ attention. Immediately we get reminders to sit up straight and out goes our chest to get into the perfect posture. But, do you know it is all there in our butt and it’s the lower body that needs primary attention? Pelvis position changes help greatly in reducing back pain and other things fall into place once the lower body is set right. Imagine that you have a tail and the aim is to put this tail behind and not sit on top of it. For this, you need to bend your hips instead of the waist (that’s usually common) when you sit. This puts the butt (or your imaginary tail) behind the spine. Relax the muscles in the back and chest and finally, you get to sit like an ‘I’ with your spinal vertebrae stacked up precisely in a straight line instead of a ‘C’.
Good Posture: A Fairy Tale?
The question here is whether or not we have something called as a good posture! To the common man, a good posture is to sit up straight correcting your slouched back straightening out some of the curves. Till date, we don’t have relationships between postural factors (shape and curves of the back) and back pain and also between sitting and back pain. While sitting can aggravate back pain it cannot be termed as the root cause of back pain. Data from the British Chiropractic Association reveals that 32% of the population spends more than ten hours a day in sitting position. Almost 50% of these people don’t leave their desk even for lunch, they have it at their own cubicle and 2/3rd of these people again sit down when they go home back from work.
While most quote that sitting up straight is best there is a study that compared three different postures-a slouching posture where the body is hunched forward as in viewing the computer, an upright posture 90-degree sitting posture and a relaxed posture where the person leans back at 135 degrees but the feet remains firmly on the ground. While the slouched posture reduced spinal disk height indicating a high degree of wear and tear and the 90-degree posture had more pronounced disk movement, the disk movement was least pronounced in the 135-degree posture suggesting that this displayed less strain on the spinal disk. This might be news! Buts it’s just one study and we cannot change our entire sitting styles owing to this. What we can do is to sit in an ‘I’ posture instead of the ‘C” posture!
While we argue on what is a good posture, we do know what a bad posture is. A poor posture affects the spine, circulation, causes fatigue, affects our mood, causes neck pain, shoulder pain and finally impairs quality of life. You might be the CEO of the organization or the head of a chain of businesses but you need to take time to correct your posture and start sitting in the correct way to avoid health complications.
Are You Sitting Comfortably: The Myth of Good Posture: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/mar/05/are-you-sitting-comfortably-the-myth-of-good-posture
Is Your Posture Causing You Back Pain? https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fitness/is-your-posture-causing-you-back-pain-try-the-gokhale-method/article26702414.ece
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.