How to Sit in a Chair
While sitting may seem like common sense (after all, you’ve been sitting your whole life), if you experience back pain or shoulder pain or headaches after a day at the office, your style of sitting could be contributing to your problems.
Sitting for too many hours—at work, in the car, or in front of the TV—can take a toll on your body’s muscles and joints, especially if you slouch or sit with your legs crossed or one leg under your butt.
Here’s why: Your spine has curves that act as shock absorbers. When you sit, you round your spine, which eliminates the curves. This creates an unequal distribution of pressure along your spine and back. Over time and with poor sitting habits, this extra pressure can lead to tension headaches, disc problems, and pain in your lower back and shoulders.
Check out the keys to proper sitting technique below, then continue reading to see if you’re guilty of one of the four common seated positions that can hurt your body.
The Proper Way to Sit in a Chair
- Sit with your feet flat on the ground. If you're short, put a box or stool under your feet to lift them.
- Keep your knees lower than your hips. If you're tall, sit on a wedge or seat cushion to raise your body.
- Your arms should be supported by arm rests without forcing your shoulders up toward your ears.
- Keep your shoulder blades back and down, elevate your chest, and draw in your tummy.
Common Seated Positions That Could be Damaging Your Body
These popular seated positions may be wreaking havoc on your body.
Crossing Legs at the Knee
When you sit with your legs crossed, you irritate the area around your fibular head, just below the knee, which can pinch the peronial nerve. Crossing your legs also alters your pelvic position, placing additional pressure on your hip muscles and sciatic nerve. This throws off your SI (sacroiliac) joint and pelvis, which attach to your lower back, and can lead to long-term nerve irritation and back pain.
The fix: First, do your best to keep your legs uncrossed. If you find yourself sitting with your legs crossed, do the Leg Cradle - Supine. This movement helps stretch out your hip muscles that can tighten up from sitting in this position.
Slouching is common in people with desk jobs. When you slouch, your head pushes forward and out of alignment, which makes your muscles work harder to hold it up. This pressure puts stress on your shoulders and neck and can lead to tension headaches. A slouched position also puts extra pressure on an already compressed spine, leading to lower back pain.
The Fix: Put a pop-up reminder on your computer telling you to stand up and do a posture check. This will help you become more aware of your sitting position. You can also use a lumbar roll or a small towel in the small of your back to maintain a more upright posture. Add the upward dog yoga position and Standing Y's and T's to your fitness routine to extend your upper body and lower back.
Crossing Legs Under Each Other
Placing your legs under one another in a bent position, often referred to as pretzel-style, rotates your hip and knee joints in a way that puts pressure on them. This can lead to tight hamstrings and knee and hip pain. Over time, it can irritate the meniscus cartilage in the knee and put added stress on the hip capsule from the constant rotation.
The Fix: If you find yourself sitting pretzel-style, quickly untwist your legs. Aim to break this habit over time. To help counteract the pressure on your hips and knees, add the Foam Roll - IT Band and Handwalks to your routine. This will help stretch your muscles and relieve pressure on your hips and knees.
One Leg Up, One Leg Down
When you sit with one leg up on your chair and the other one hanging down, you're causing your pelvis to rotate in a way that it normally wouldn't and keep it from rotating naturally. Consistently performing this motion can lead to sacroiliitis, or an inflammation of the SI joints, a common cause of lower back pain and lack of stability.
The Fix: While your first line of defense is to kick this habit, there are also ways to counteract it. Bring stability back to your body and ease lower back pain by adding Glute Bridges to your routine. Place a small pillow or ball between your knees while performing this movement. It helps fire up your abs and hip muscles, while improving your strength and stability.