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Chairs and Back Pain

Sitting Disorder?

by Chris on September 9, 2010

Thanks to everyone who has written in with their questions lately – I do apologize for not posting more often recently.  I moved my family across the country during the summer – not a small undertaking, it turns out.

Now that we’re back into the routine of school (or, at least, getting used to the idea), I’ll be putting out more regular posts about our favorite subject: “how to make my body as comfortable a place to live as possible.”

Following on from the back-to-school idea, I’ve had a few folks write in wanting more information about chairs and sitting.  Hopefully you’ve all had a chance to look at my post on chairs, so let’s assume you have and use this post as a specific example of the concepts.

First, let’s take a real world example of a chair and then let’s problem solve how to sit on it in a way that would work.  Then, in the next post, let’s expand on the idea of sitting so that you’ll understand how to make the concept of chairs work for you.

Let’s have a look at this picture of the chair that a subscriber sent in.

First, let me commend you, Jito, for having plenty of water on hand.  This is one of the most important things you can do for your body – drink plenty of water.  And by plenty, I don’t mean the old “8 glasses a day” non-sense.  I mean drink the amount that works for YOUR body.

I know I’m getting off track here, but here’s the formula, then we’ll get back to it: Vol/day (oz) = Body wgt (lbs.)/2. Or in metric Vol/day (cl.) = body wgt. (kg)/3.  It’s a target, not a commandment.

Photo-0224This particular chair suffers from what most chairs do – a fundamental design flaw.  you can see clearly from the picture that the back of the chair is lower than the front.

This suggests a backward tilt to your pelvis, which destabilizes your spine and prevents the pelvis from supporting the movement of the lower body, placing undue strain on the muscles of the low back.

That was a mouthfull, wasn’t it?  Let’s unpack that just a bit and emphasize that the key point here is that when you’re sitting for any length of time, you want to make sure that your pelvis can support your upper body, so that your spinal muscles don’t have to do that job.

And, as if that wasn’t enough – there’s another problem.

Here’s the picture again – with a few additions for clarity.

chair problems

The ‘issue’ that this chair has above other chairs is that when you sit in it, because of it’s design, will tilt backward slightly when you sit in it.

This will exacerbate the main “chair issue” and add to the stress and strain you feel when sitting in short order.

“Well, gee thanks, Chris,” you say.  “What’s the solution to the problem?”

There are two easy solutions to the problem – although they don’t address the underlying issue.  More on that in a minute.

The first easy solution is to get a small pillow or a folded towel and place it at the back of the chair so that when you sit, it’s just underneath your sit-bones (pelvis) and not your thighs.  That will help quite a bit.  For this chair, you’ll want to make it extra thick, because of the tendency of the chair to loose height in back.

The other easy solution is to get another chair.

Not to be flip about it, but there are better chairs out there that could be had for less than $50.  And, if you’re spending a lot of time in the chair, you owe it to yourself to get a chair that you can spend a lot of time in without doing yourself in.

Solving the actual problem requires some technique on your part.  Don’t worry it’s not that difficult – it’s more like breaking a habit: when you notice you’re doing it, do the thing that works better.  We’ll talk about that more in the next post.

Keep those questions coming!

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

jessica February 12, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Hey Chris, I have a question how am I supposed to keep my body in aligned when I have scoliosis? Its about a 25 degree angle mosly in my lower area but I’m having more problems and may have a pinched nerve at the top of my spine which is just the worst pain I’ve ever had in all the years of back pain I’ve suffered..I’m almost 37 and I dont know what to do and I am on meds for the pain and have Fibromygeria too so I’m just a mess this year and I’m usually a very active person and so happy but lately all this is really getting me down…Thanks for listening because I just dont know what to do and drs are just nuts’ well most of them are, all they what to do to me is medicate me…sincerely, Jessica

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