A Guide to Back Pain and Sitting
How many people do you think suffer with back pain? It might surprise you to hear that the NHS estimate up to 8 in every 10 people in the UK will be affected by back pain at some point in their lives. Sadly as we age, these pains tend to become a more permanent feature. In fact, a recent YouGov survey found that well over half (57%) of adults, aged 60+ have constant/ongoing aches and pains; of those who suffered, 60% experience pain in their back.
There are a myriad of different reasons for backache, but a very crucial one is that people don’t have the right posture in their day to day lives. When you hear someone mention posture, I’m sure you’ll automatically sit up a little straighter, perhaps visualise a book balanced on your head, and then within a few minutes revert back to your slightly slumped, comfortable position.
Check your posture
Here’s a quick test to check your posture:
- Stand with the back of your head against a wall
- Place your heels 6 inches from the wall with your buttocks and shoulders touching the wall
- There should be less than 2 inches between your neck and small of your back and the wall
- A larger gap indicates poor posture and a curving spine
Wouldn’t it be great if we could make good posture such an intrinsic part of our everyday thinking that we don’t need to worry about it causing backache in the future? If you’d like more information on how you can improve your posture, please read our article: Perfecting your Posture
For the purposes of this article, I’d like to focus on how we can help alleviate backache when sitting, and also how to sit correctly so that you don’t develop back problems later in life.
To state the obvious, sitting down is something that everyone does! Unfortunately, prolonged sitting has been linked with several health concerns and so, in an ideal world, the solution would be sitting less and moving more. But what if we have to sit for long periods of time due to health, employment or other lifestyle factors? In this case, it is essential to have the right chair or sofa so that you have the correct postural support to help your body rest well and move better.
Many of us develop what is known, in Occupational Therapist circles, as a “Comfort Posture”. This term refers to the most comfortable position we adopt in a particular seat. If our usual furniture does not support us in the way that it should, then our “comfort posture” will be heavily impacted.
A good way of understanding this is to think back to when you went away on holiday, or you stayed at someone’s home for a long period of time. When you went, did you find it an odd, even painful, experience to get used to a different bed or chair? This is because your muscles (and brain) learn the most comfortable position to be in, and when we go somewhere new, our muscles are then challenged and put under new forces whilst we try to find our new “comfort posture”.
Finding the right fit
Your furniture is such an important part of making sure that your sitting posture, or “comfort posture” is correct, so you need to choose a chair or sofa which will support you in the places you need it to, thus preventing or relieving backache.
Here at HSL we have spent a long time, in consultation with our independent Occupational Therapist Julie Jennings Dip COT HCPC, developing and perfecting our 7-Point Seating Assessment™. In our HSL Stores, our Comfort Specialists will assess your unique needs and check that each of the following parts of your body are fully supported, giving you unrivalled comfort:
|Hip position||Bottom fits into the back of the seat.|
|Height||If the seat height is correct, the feet will be flat on the floor. The entire upper leg should also be fully supported so that the knee almost forms a right angle.|
|Seat depth||If the depth of the seat is correct, the calf should gently kiss the leg rest or allow for a flat hand to be placed between the calf and leg rest.|
|Width||The correct width is vital to help spread the weight across the seat. It provides pelvic stability and prevents leaning to one side.|
|Lower back||The lumbar area; the natural curve in the back, is supported by the chair.|
|Neck and head||When the neck is supported correctly the head is not forced forward or too high above the back of the chair.|
|Arm position||Elbows to fingers must be in contact with the arm of the chair. The forearm should be supported with the shoulders in their natural resting position.|