You’re sitting wrong and your back knows it | E-Neighborhood Advisor
Esther Gokhale is a posture expert. She recently gave a Ted Talk about the importance of good posture, which has become even more significant as more and more people have been working from home. Most of us didn’t have a home office space ready and waiting when we began to shelter in place, so if you’ve spent the past several months shifting around on a borrowed dining room chair with a cushion wedged behind you, you’re not alone. Here are some of her recommendations.
“Sit up straight, shoulders back.”
This advice, says Gokhale, sets us up in the wrong position. “What we end up doing is arching our backs by tensing up our muscles — the ropey ones that the massage therapist will tell you are tight… What that does is it loads the discs [in the lower back] and jams the edges of the vertebrae against each other.”
When we keep trying to sit up straight, we can ultimately alter our anatomy, she explains. “If that becomes a habit — which it does for many people — then those tight, short muscles inhibit the blood supply in the area so now you have an anemic back and repair isn’t happening efficiently.”
This effort also takes an enormous amount of energy and it doesn’t actually last; we’re likely to slump again after a few minutes when we get tired.
Periodically stopping work to stretch your muscles for a few minutes may bring relief but…
“…a much smarter way is to use the time that you’re sitting to stretch yourself against the backrest,” explains Gokhale. She has created a technique called “stretch sitting” to help perfect this motion. The key? Don’t tuck in your tailbone and use your muscles more.
Standing desks can be good, but it’s still about how you hold your body. When you stand, Gokhale recommends adopting a stance of “readiness”, maintaining a little bit of spring in your knees. But she explains that the average person stands in a way that damages the ligaments and discs.”
When you’re relaxing on the sofa, it’s important to think about your back. We don’t stop damaging — or taking care of — our backs when our working day ends; everything we do has an impact on our bodies. So we should consider stretch sitting while we’re on the sofa too, suggests Gokhale.