Ergonomics of Sitting
As the years go by, our society has become more and more sedentary. Currently what that means for the majority of the population is sitting 5 days a week for 40 hours as demanded by their jobs. If you haven’t heard yet, sitting is the new smoking. It may be hard to think that sitting for long periods could actually be an occupational health hazard due to the lack of muscles and effort that is needed. We will dive into how it really does affect your body and how to prevent sitting from impacting your health by implementing proper at-home ergonomics.
How is Sitting Harmful
Sitting can affect circulation
A fixed working position squeezes the blood vessels in the muscles, reducing the blood supply to the working muscles just when they need it the most. Insufficient blood flow can also lead to blood pooling, especially in the lower legs. Pressure on the underside of the thighs from a seat that is too high can further aggravate this. The result can be swollen or numb legs and eventually varicose veins.
Sitting can make your body prone to injury
Although sitting involves less muscular effort than other physically demanding jobs, it still causes fatigue within the body. Sitting requires the muscles to hold the trunk, neck, and shoulders in a fixed position. An insufficient blood supply accelerates fatigue and makes the muscles prone to injury when trying to go from sitting to performing simple tasks such as lifting, bending, and exercising.
Sitting can decrease mobility
Limited mobility, seen in individuals who undergo prolonged sitting, contributes to injuries in the parts of the body responsible for movement: the muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments. We see sitting reduces the body’s movement and makes muscles more prone to pull, cramp, or strain when suddenly stretched. Another factor is the steady, localized tension on certain muscles of the body. The neck and lower back are the regions usually most affected.
Sitting can damage your spine
Sitting is seen to add a steady compression on the spinal discs that hinders their nutrition and can contribute to their premature degeneration. Poor posture while sitting can also alter the structural integrity of the spine encouraging degeneration to occur at a faster rate. As prolonged sitting continuously deteriorates the spine it is seen more and more stress is in turn added onto the nervous system.
Common Poor Positions
The couch slouch
We all have done it before. Lounging on the couch, sitting right on the edge, our spine curved and our head supported on the back edge. This specific posture affects the spine severely. The largest aspect is the fact that a lot of compression is added into the disks that render their function of support and cushion purposeless. The structural integrity is also compromised as the spines’ natural curves are forced into unnatural positioning. The added effect of doing work on a laptop in this position adds more strain to the neck and altering the curvature in that region as well.
We all know who is guilty of this. The individual that sits in the car, on the couch, and in the restaurant with one leg crossed under the other. The positioning of the leg has the biggest effect in the pelvic region. This causes the pelvis to rotate putting stress on the spine that sits on top of it. With the pelvis always being rotated in one specific position it starts to stay crooked, causing tension in ligaments and muscles that attach on and around the area.
For proper home ergonomics, feet need to be placed flat on the floor to support the legs. Back needs to be straight with shoulders back allowing the spines natural curves to support the body. The screen needs to be raised in order to meet at eye level and take any strain off of the neck. For each major joint such as the hips, knees, and elbows the positioning is best when they are at a range close to 90 degrees.
Varying these positions is the essence of “good sitting”. So, a good sitting position is one that allows an individual to change their body positions frequently and naturally within acceptable parameters, and when they want without being restricted by the work station.
When setting up your workstation, books or a platform can be put under the monitor in order to get the screen at eye level. If you are working on a laptop it is recommended to put the laptop on the platform at eye level and purchase a separate keyboard for you to type on. A fully adjustable chair is necessary so that positioning can accommodate the wide variation in individual sizes to allow for both elbows and knees to sit at 90 degrees. If needed, a platform can be put under the feet to allow for feet to be placed flat under the legs. If sitting in your chair has uncomfortable cushions underneath, you can help to soften the surface or a lumbar support can be used to allow a more comfortable good posture.
Ready to start improving your posture and working on your spinal health? Schedule an appointment to start your journey to better health!