Leaning Back For a Healthier Spine.
The longstanding conventional wisdom that sitting up straight is best for your back isn’t all its cracked up to be. Now that advice has been turned on its head by a new study that suggests leaning back while sitting at a desk is actually much more spine-friendly.
Back pain is far and away the most common cause of work-related disability in the US, costing Americans nearly $50 billion in lost work annually. The primary perpetrator? The strain of sitting upright for long hours. 32% of the population spends more than 10 hours a day seated. This is the combined time of sitting while commuting to work, sitting down at work, then sitting again at home. Half of Americans don’t even leave their desks during the workday, even to eat lunch.
Unfortunately the human body wasn’t primarily designed for sitting, and doing it wrong can lead to pain, spinal deformity and chronic back problems.
What the Evidence Says
Using a new type of “positional” MRI which allows patients the freedom to move during a scan, researchers from the Radiological Society of North America studied 22 volunteers with no back pain history. The participants were scanned in three different positions:
- Slouching. The person hunches forward, with feet touching the floor.
- Upright, at 90 degrees, with feet touching the floor.
- Relaxed, reclined backwards at 135 degrees, with feet touching the floor.
The researchers then measured spinal angles and movement of the intervertebral disks to determine the amount of stress being placed on the soft tissues in the back.
What they found is remarkable for everyone who grew up being told to “sit up straight”. Disk movement was most pronounced with sitting up straight and least pronounced with the 135-degree posture, suggesting less wear and tear is placed on the spinal disks and associated muscles and tendons in a more relaxed sitting position.
The Bottom Line
In general, opening up the angle between the torso and the thighs in a seated posture reduces strain and improves the shape of the spine, preserving it’s natural S-shape curves. As to what the ideal angle for working at a desk is, reclining at 135 degrees can make working difficult because of the tendency to slide off the seat; 110 degrees is probably better.
So relax and lean back at work. It’s your best bet for keeping your spine free from problems caused by sitting.
Got Back Pain?
While prevention is the best medicine, if you’re already dealing with the effects of sitting all day we’d love to help. At Ascent Chiropractic we use the most effective chiropractic and physical therapy techniques to correct spinal biomechanics, restore normal function, and get you out of pain and on the road back to optimal health. Don’t want chronic back pain and spinal degeneration to be part of your future? Schedule an appointment at Ascent Chiropractic by calling 262-345-4166 or by using our online scheduling app.