Too much of anything is a bad thing and sitting is no exception. Sitting down may often feel more comfortable than standing but it actually puts at least twice as much pressure on your low back compared to standing and eight times more pressure than lying down.
Sitting in office chairs for prolonged periods can be major cause of back pain. Sitting is a static posture that can cause increased stress in the back, neck, arms and legs and can add a tremendous amount of pressure to the back muscles and spinal discs.
Besides being uncomfortable, over time, poor sitting posture and workplace ergonomics can damage spinal structures and contribute to recurrent episodes of back pain.
Sitting badly often affects your body's ability to deal with stress. Good posture means your bones are properly aligned and your muscles, joints and ligaments can work as nature intended. This means your vital organs are in the right position and can function at peak efficiency.
What can you do?
Elbows – begin by sitting comfortably, as close as possible to your desk so thaty your upper arms are parallel to your spine. Rest your hands on your work surface (desktop or keyboard). If your elbows are not at 90 degrees, move your chair up or down as appropriate.
Thighs – Check that you can easily slide your fingers under your thigh at the leading edge of the chair. If it is too tight, you need to prop your feet up with an adjustable footrest. If there is more than a finger width between your thigh and the chair, you need to raise the work surface so that you can raise your chair.
Lower-back support – Your bottom should be pressed against the back of your chair, and there should be a cushion that causes your lower back to arch slightly so that you don't slump forward as you tire. This support is essential to minimise the strain on your back. Never slump or slouch in your chair as that places extra stress on your spine and lumbar discs.
Eye level – Close your eyes while sitting comfortably with your head facing forward. Slowly open your eyes. Your gaze should be aimed at the centre of your computer screen. If it is not your will need to adjust it.
Arm rest – Adjust the armrest on your chair so that it just slightly lifts your arms at the shoulders. Use of an armrest on your office chair allows you to take some of the strain off your neck and shoulders, and it should make you less likely to slouch forward in your chair.
Some people prefer more active, ergonomic chairs such as a Swedish kneeling chair, a Swiss exercise ball or a saddle seat.
Traditional chairs are designed to provide complete support, a Swedish Kneeling Chair promotes good posture without a back support, a Swiss Ball helps develop your abdominal and back muscles while you sit and a Bambach Saddle Seat is designed to support the pelvis and retain the natural shape of your spine.
Whatever chair you sit on, try to avoid static posture while sitting in office chairs. No matter how comfortable you are in your office chair, prolonged, static posture is not good for your back.