+ Poor Posture = CTS?
Many people, Americans especially, consider sitting down
as “relaxing.” But,
if someone has back pain and doesn't know why, then maybe their
back isn’t happy sitting in the particular chair that they chose to “relax” in.
The muscles of the lumbar, thoracic and cervical spines provide support to people while they are either standing or seated. But in the seated position, the seat of a
chair forces the spine to change its position and the muscles,
bones, and vertebrae then try to adjust to “fit” the chair. When
sitting, the spine actually flattens a bit, causing pressure on the natural
lordotic curve of the lower back (the lumbar section), often forcing the individual into slouched, forward /shoulder position that increases pressure on the cervical spine, shoulders, arms and wrists.
If someone sits for
long hours in an uncomfortable chair, back problems, and other forms of repetitive strain injury can develop while
existing problems can become worse. So, what does one need to have
a comfortable, body-friendly chair?
There is no single “correct” answer to this question. Look
around any office. There will be a variety of body types and sizes. A
6’ 4” man can’t be expected to be comfortable in a chair
that is also available for a 5’2” woman. People who have
their height in their legs won’t be comfortable in the same chair
as people who have their height in their torsos. The idea of a “one-size-fits-all” chair
is a myth.
What, then, what are the elements that contribute to a comfortable, ergonomic
chair that will support a person’s entire body in an ergonomically sound manner?
Weight Distribution: The seat of a good chair needs
to be high enough off the floor that a person’s legs are comfortably supported. The
knees should be at about a 90-degree angle and the thighs should be parallel
to the floor. The seat of the chair should allow enough room so a person
is comfortable. This means that there should be about 2 – 4 inches
between the edge of the chair and the back of the knees. The seat of
the chair should allow a person’s weight to be evenly distributed.
Lumbar Support: The back of the chair should be designed so
that the natural curve of the lumbar section is supported. The support
should fit the individual and prevent any slouching in the chair. A person’s
lower back should not be flattened against the back of the chair, forcing the
back into an unnatural position. This might seem comfortable at first,
but the longer a back is forced into this position, the more pain an individual
will experience over time.
Padding: As anyone who has ever sat in bleachers or metal
folding chairs knows, padding on a chair is important. The padding needs
to fit the seat of the chair and it should be of breathable material. The
best chair in the world won’t be very effective if a person has to keep
shifting in it because the chair material itself is uncomfortable.
Chair / Seat Tilt: Comfort is also dictated by the tilt of
the seat. A chair’s seat can tilt so that the back descends into
the chair (a column tilt) or the tilt can force the knees upward, (a back-down
tilt) which also force the back downward. There is no preferable choice
since the needs of each individual will be different. There are many
things to consider, but the basic goal is to properly support the lumbar region.
Adjustable Features: The chair needs to be adjustable. Most
chairs don’t exist for one single person. Sometimes, for various
reasons (like a pregnancy) a chair might need to be adjusted for the same individual. Sometimes
the work a person is doing might dictate an adjustment. Typing, or long-term
work on a computer, requires that armrests be removed or adjusted so that the
arms don’t rest on the armrests. The arms should be allowed to
move and adjust as the work changes. The chair itself should be able
to swivel so an individual can easily maneuver the chair.
Movement: A lot of money can be spent
on a good ergonomic chair, but one key to comfortable seating is freedom: Move around as much
as possible. People were not designed to be kept in one position for
long periods of time. A chair might be comfortable, but everyone should
make a point to get out of the chair and move. This keeps the back flexible
and allows the benefits of that good chair to keep working. If someone
sits in a chair so long that the chair has become molded to that particular
person, it is time to get a new chair!
Adjustable seating features are critical to combating poor ergonomics that often result in repetitive strain inquires like carpal tunnel syndrome. With advanced features and a variety of options, you can move around freely while being positioned in a clean, ergonomically designed fashion that reduces strain to the lumber, thoracic and cervical spines. Because when your back hurts, you adjust your position, often moving into a non-ergonomically sound environment that then puts increased stress and strain on the shoulders, arms hands and wrists. When this occurs, change your seating. IF your seating is fine but you are doing extra work with your hands, perform a good balancing stretching and strengthening routine for your hands and upper extremity. One of the best devices for this is FLEXTEND.
Assess your seating needs and meet them whatever they are.
Reducing stress, strain and back pain can be achieved with the proper
tools, and a good ergonomic chair is a key element in achieving relief.