It may be surprising to some to learn that sitting actually places more stress on your spinal discs than standing.
Your spine is compressed by approximately 30% more in sitting then in standing. This increases your risk of sciatica, a herniated disc and degenerative disc disease.
Also, when sitting for long periods of time, we tend to fall into a slouched position. Slouching causes the spinal ligaments to overstretch and this poor posture can strain your spinal discs. This can lead to increased strain to the annulus of the disc and can increase the risk of disc bulging. Although this may begin as isolated episodes of back pain; regular, long periods of sitting can speed up the wear and tear of your discs. Ultimately this can mean pain becomes a daily occurrence.
To avoid damage to your discs, pay attention to your sitting posture. Keep your shoulder above and slightly behind your hips. If your chair has adjustable lumbar support, be sure to adjust accordingly to support the natural curve of your spine. If not, place a lumbar roll between your lower back and chair. Also, make sure to stand up from time to time. Stand or walk around for a few minutes to take the pressure off your spine.
You can also incorporate stretches targeting the muscles that become tight when sitting (e.g. scalenes, pectorals, traps and hip flexors). It is also important to strengthen the muscles that aren’t used when sitting. The include the abdominals and back extensors. This will aid in restoring the spine’s normal muscular balance and promote good posture.
Written by Nicholas Dimos (Physiotherapist)