Apparently, sitting with your back straight is not the ideal posture, but that is no green light to start slouching!
Canadian and Scottish researchers came to this conclusion by observing volunteers with healthy backs. Volunteers were asked to sit in a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine especially designed to allow movement during the test. Classic MRI machines actually require a patient to remain lying down and static throughout the entire procedure.
The researchers observed that a seated position where the back is straight actually creates abnormal tensions in the spine and ligaments that, in the long term, cause malformations and chronic back pain. Sitting while leaning forward is not any better because the vertebrae in your lower back are squashed, increasing the potential for micro-tears which can cause herniated disks. It seems that the very best seated position is one where the back is slightly angled backward, well supported by the backrest and with both feet resting flat on the floor. This position recreates the natural S-shaped curve of the spine. Not only are the cushioned disks between the vertebrae less compressed, but the lower-back muscles are more relaxed. The angle of the thighs and back should be at about 135 degrees, but very few people feel comfortable in this position. According to a specialist, an incline angle of 120 degrees or less is preferable and more comfortable.
The seated position is very important for people who work in front of a computer all day or who work in an office environment. The human body was not designed to be sitting down ten hours a day; it was built to move! An ergonomic work environment can help support one’s posture throughout the day. Therefore, both feet should always be flat on the floor or placed on an angled foot-rest. The well-padded seat of the chair should not compress the back of the knees, and the backrest should cradle the back while allowing you to lean backward a little. The chair should ideally have arm-rests to allow the forearms to lie at the same height as the computer keyboard or writing surface. The computer screen should neither be too high nor too low to avoid any tension in the back of the neck.
It is also important to move around at the office during the day and at home after work. It is recommended to take five-minute breaks for every hour of work spent sitting down. When the telephone rings, take the opportunity to stand up and walk around a little. Do not keep your filing until the end of the day; take advantage of these little moments to stand up and stretch. Do not eat at your desk; take the time to socialize with your coworkers at the cafeteria. Better yet, take a few minutes of your lunch break to go for a walk! You should avoid sitting in front of the television when you get home and instead choose activities you can do standing up or moving.
Working in front of a computer all day does not cause chronic back pain. Rather, it is being physically inactive after work that is the culprit. In fact, the more sedentary your job is, the more active you should be when your work day is over! So, what are you doing tonight?