SERIES ONE: YOUR CHAIR IS THE FOUNDATION FOR A BETTER POSTURE
The ability to change your posture yet maintain a good posture when working at a computer for extended time periods is like good real estate: location, location, location! Without going into extreme details, good and changing postures maintain optimal joint alignment, uses various muscle groups for sustaining of different postures, that ultimately reduce those nasty trigger points on either side of the base of your neck, low back stiffness, and other stiff joints. Most often we sit in chairs at work, that have rollers on them, side arms, and some handle mechanisms to change the height or tilt of the chair. And if the chair you use does not help you when at work, your physical complaints begin to over ride your ability to focus on tasks at hand. In many organizations, you may not have a choice of the chair that is good for you. Now that you may be working from home, your choices and adaptations expand immensely. For an example: at work you would like to sit on an exercise ball, but the company policy is no exercises balls to be used as chairs secondary to liability reasons. At home, you can certainly use an exercise ball as a choice.
Lets begin with the “I don’t have a chair with wheels, and that would certainly be nice to have.” Find one or two chairs, that will fit several postural changes and attach furniture sliders on the legs by attaching them with sticky backed Velcro.
This way the sliders are easily removed. Placing sliders on the legs allows to push the chair around without too much friction and resistance. If your home office space is hardwood or tile, use the thick felt pads and attach them in the same manner with Velcro.
At home, you can make most chairs fit for changing your posture frequently, thereby reducing over fatigue of postural muscles. The key component is when changing your posture, work in a stretch or a 15 second exercise. All which helps to “reset” muscle firing patterns and to normalize postural muscle firing rates.
So, you have picked out a few chairs. The next step is to figure out which one or two will work better for you. The chair is a piece of equipment that can determine your pelvic position. This is important to determine optimal pelvic alignment first.
GOLD: The Position of Your Pelvis is the Foundation to How the Rest of You Aligns!
I wrote a piece before about good posture in sitting, and, I think redundancy builds in the habit; so let’s review how pelvic alignment really aligns the remainder of your spine that includes your head. Your pelvis, made up of 3 bones on the left and right side of your body connect to your sacrum, the triangular bone at the base of your lumbar spine. All together these bones form a bowl shape. Your hips are also apart of the pelvis. The red circle surrounds this pelvic region. The picture to the right shows the person in what is called a “posterior pelvic tilt”. Nothing wrong with that, but this tilt of the pelvis is actually dictating how the spinal bones will align traveling to the head. This posture creates a domino affect to the rest of your torso, including your shoulders. And, with prolonged static postures, as is common in computer tasks, the muscles associated with posture begin to behave abnormally, that you cannot detect. By the time you detect muscle soreness, fatigue, headaches, or joint stiffness, this abnormal muscle firing and firing patterns have been going on inside of you for a long time.
Current ergonomic postulates state that the hips and knees should be at a 90 degree angle for proper sitting postures at seated work stations. Yet when hips are flexed at 90 degrees, the pelvis is more apt to be in a posterior position. The many individuals will correct by increasing the pelvic tilt to an anterior tilt that increases lower lumbar disc pressure. All of this information, still very basic, may appear to be too detailed, yet it is in the understanding of your position, that will empower you to do and correct properly.
The picture to the left has the hips in more of a 100 degree angle, which, is good. Now begin to look up the spine: The red line shows the true plumb line. So, in this picture, the person is leaning back slightly, which increases shear force on the sacrum, increases a forward head and rounded shoulder posture. I would not use this picture as a good visual for seated posture.
Learning from Visuals
Since most of us have difficulty “feeling” where our body’s are in space and understanding and feeling a correct manner verses what we are used to doing, (usually not correct), and if there is no professional to truly help you to discern and self correct, then good visuals are another method. Since this paper is to talk solely on the chair, the above are pictures that can help you to learn an optimal posture that you can sustain. Let me repeat here again that sustain static positions are the worst repetitive motion, therefore sitting for long periods of time at a work station, say, longer than 15 minutes, reeks havoc not only on the musculoskeletal system, but metabolically as well. Use some of the short visual basics as choosing and using a chair to your greatest advantage!
If you ever have any questions, feel free to reach out to us!