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Proper Sitting for a Healthy Back

Topic Overview

Slouching puts stress on your lower back and contributes to low back problems. When you sit, keep your shoulders back and down, chin back, belly in, and your lower back supported. Your spine should be in the neutral position, with three general front-to-back curves. Use proper sitting posture.

  • If your chair doesn't give enough support, use a small pillow, a rolled towel, or a lumbar roll to support your lower back.
  • Sit in a chair that is low enough to let you place both feet flat on the floor with both knees slightly lower than your hips. If your chair or desk is too high, use a foot rest to raise your knees.
  • When driving a car, adjust your seat to keep your knees nearly level with your hips. Sit straight, and drive with both hands on the steering wheel. Your arms should be in a slightly flexed, comfortable position. Use a small pillow, a rolled-up towel, or a lumbar roll if you need extra back support. If your seat angles down from front to back, create a more horizontal surface to sit on with a travel cushion or triangular foam wedge. Stop often to stretch and walk around.

It this sitting position causes pain, talk to your doctor or physical therapist. You may have a condition such as a problem with a disc or with bones in your back.

To rise from a chair, keep your back in the neutral position and scoot forward to the edge of the chair. Use your leg muscles to stand up without leaning forward at the waist.

If you spend a lot of time sitting, get up, move around, and stretch frequently. Consider varying your seating arrangement:

  • A kneeling chair helps tilt your hips forward, taking pressure off of the lower back.
  • Sitting on an exercise ball provides a firm, cushioned seat that can rock from side to side. This type of movement helps you keep your back loose.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Joan Rigg, PT, OCS - Physical Therapy
Last Revised December 20, 2011

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