Are you sitting comfortably?

It’s Back Care Awareness this month so, we are looking at a topic that affects all of us at some point. We spend many hours sitting at our desks and your sitting posture can be a factor in whether your experience neck, back or shoulder pain so, it’s worth taking a couple of minutes to check if you’re sitting as well as you could. … take Roy, our Alexander Teachers, quick test With a colleague or friend and a camera or smart phone, take a picture and compare below and see which one if you.

1. The common slump If your posture looks like this you’re not alone – this is the most common posture I see in my practice. Note the curve of the yellow line that follows the spine and see how the weight of the head is forward of the neck and spine that should be supporting it - see red line. This pulls the spine forward putting stress on the neck, shoulder and upper back muscles. Over time this can lead to quite serious discomfort. Unfortunately sitting at a desk can do this to most people’s backs! Your breathing, circulation and digestion may suffer as a result of sitting in this position for long periods. The spine is unable to support the head as nature intended resulting in additional effort from other muscles to keep the body upright. The slump/ slouch

"Sit up straight!"

2. Sitting up straight This is what most people consider to be a good sitting position however, I have put a big red arrow on it to give you a clue where she is going wrong. If your sitting posture looks like this, it is no doubt due to being told to ‘sit up straight’ as a child. I see many adults who suffer lower back pain but continue to sit like this in the belief it is ‘good for the back’. This forced position actually shortens the spine and compresses the disks in the lower back. Over time this can lead to a deterioration of these disks and a considerable amount of discomfort. As with the slump many of the body’s functions will be affected by the excessive tension held in the body, not least the breathing as your ribs will struggle to move inside the ‘straight jacket’ torso!

3. Poised If your sitting posture resembles this one, and you can maintain it without any effort, then well done! This position puts virtually no stress on your back as the weight of the head sits directly on top of the spine and passes directly down to the chair - see yellow line. This is poised sitting and it far more desirable than the slump of forced sitting postures we've seen above. The spine can maintain its natural curves as it is not pulled out of shape by inappropriate muscular tension. Your body functions better, and believe it or not, it's possible to sit like this for long periods without discomfort - although remember, it's a good idea to get up and move around every thirty minutes.

The Alexander Technique and posture is featured in this month’s Talk Back magazine, please see here. We also have a range of information on our site about back pain. Item posted by Roy Palmer, teacher of The Alexander Technique.