We spend far too much time sitting and as a result many of us suffer from work-related back pain. Many jobs demand 8 hours or more of constant sitting at desks or workstations, and many of us spend a significant amount of time sitting in cars driving home during rush hour. By the time we get home all we want to do is relax and have some down-time, which turns into another 3-4 hours of sitting. Once the day is over, easily half of it was spent sitting.
The human body has evolved to move through space for thousands of years, however modern civilization doesn't exactly require us to move all that much to acquire a pretty good standard of living. It's surprisingly easy to get through an entire week without moving much at all. Unfortunately, without motion, the weight of your body while sitting pushes down on your joints for hours and hours. When you start moving, it distributes load from joint to joint, giving these overloaded tissues a small window to recover. On the other hand, if you do too much sitting and don't let your body recover, things are going to start breaking down and causing pain. A 12-14 hour period of sitting is going to leave the muscles, discs and bones in your back weak and vulnerable to injury.
Workplaces have recognized this as a problem, and if they want their workers to be able to continue coming to work pain-free, then the current standard office is in need of a re-design. Office aids such as standing/treadmill desks, ergonomic friendly chairs and computer stations are a great start. However, if you're going to be spending over 8 hours in a chair per day, the most important step is to know how to actually sit properly. These simple steps can add years to your sitting career by putting you into a position that allows the body to withstand the most load possible without breaking down.
SIT: Start by sitting down in a chair and adjusting the height so that your thighs are parallel with the floor.
SLIDE: Slide your butt all the way to the back of the chair until it stops.
LEAN: Allow your back to lean on the back of the chair.
The lean step is crucial and requires a chair that provides support for your back. The back of the chair allows your posture muscles to relax, taking load off your body. This works in a similar fashion to a foot orthotic. The orthotic helps support the foot in an optimal position so the tiny muscles in the feet don't have to overwork. This reduces foot pain by taking load off the body. Leaning on the back of the chair allows the tiny postural muscles in your back to relax and not overwork.
REST: set a timer and get up to move around every 20 minutes.
Following these 4 steps will help greatly reduce the risk of back pain. It will slow the buildup of adhesion within muscles, slow the rate of degeneration and reduce the risk of disc injuries.