For many people, chairs are causing untold amounts of damage to their spines. An incorrect chair set up can wreak havoc on your spinal alignment by pushing and pulling unstable segments of your spine into a locked forward position.
Remember that there are no muscles in the body that can pull spinal bones backwards again, so when they get stuck forward, you need to get adjusted. The more often you get stuck forward, the slower your progress will be through spinal correction, ending up costing you more time and money in the long run.
All forms of sitting are potentially harmful to your spine, so the best advice is to avoid sitting altogether and make a stand-up desk for your work commitments. This is very easy to do and will help you maintain excellent spinal health if you make an effort to do this.
People often report that they can concentrate better when they stand up and work too. This is not surprising because there will be significantly less pressure placed on the spinal cord and brain stem when standing than when sitting on the wrong kind of chair.
For the times when you must sit down the following advice applies:
1. The best chair has an entirely flat surface to sit on, with minimal cushioning. Ideally, you would be able to tilt this surface forward about 10 degrees (the exact amount varies depending on the person) to allow the pelvis to tilt forward as well. A slight forward tilt on the pelvis allows the spinal curves to assume their ideal position and dissipate the weight of the body evenly through the whole structure.
Think of your spine as a giant spring that only works well when it is lined up correctly. When you get this right, your spinal muscles can relax as your body is supported and you will feel a lot more energised at the end of the day. Poor sitting positions make the spinal muscles work hard to keep you upright, and there is an inevitable cost to pay at the end of the day with spinal stiffness and discomfort.
2. Seat wedges are invaluable for chairs that don’t have this tilt function. They are inexpensive, light and easy to carry around with you. Speak to your chiropractor about the best type and size of seat wedge for you. Generally speaking, however, a somewhere between a 7 to 11-degree seat wedge is perfect for most people sitting on a hard flat chair. ‘Harley’ is a good company that sells comfortable seat wedges that will perform well for you. At SpineCentral we sell a much better version (self-manufactured) that provides the perfect amount of stability and ideal angle to support your spine.
3. The back of the chair should ideally be flat as when they are curved and you lean against them they will push or pull your spine out of ideal alignment. A chair that curves forward will push your bones forward out of position. A chair that curves backwards will cause your lower back to slump and pull your head and upper backbones forward out of alignment. The same kind of thing happens if a chair is too soft, your buttocks will sink down too low, causing your back to slump and your head to be pulled forward.
Nearly all sofas cause this problem, especially is they have a long seat base. The only way to minimise the damage that sofas cause is to lie back on them completely, using only a very thin pillow to prop your head up. It is also important to think about the forces that get placed upon your spine when you prop yourself up in bed. It is not a good idea to sit with your back against the headboard with your legs out flat in front of you. Your poor upper back will be pulled quite forcibly forward, and this is better off avoided. It is better to lie on your side to read in bed.
4. Most car seats are designed to accommodate the faulty modern upper and lower crossed postures. They are also designed to fit a human being into a small space so that saloon cars can be made a small as possible. They are not designed to support healthy spinal curves! The typical ‘bucket’ seat set up causes the lower back to slump and the head to be pulled forward. It is wise to set the lumbar support to maximum and to use one or sometimes even two-seat wedges to stop the buttocks sinking below the thighs. Have the backrest as upright as possible. Most car seats can be adapted to provide adequate support, and it will be well worth the time and effort in doing so as it will significantly speed up your progress saving you a lot of time and money in the future.