Image courtesy of tigger11th at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Just sit straight. Isn’t that it?
No – It’s actually not that simple… And it’s more important than you think.
If you find that you are developing any aches or pains in your body after sitting all day at work, your sitting posture may be the root cause of it all! I would like to offer you some strategies that you can try to help you overcome this problem.
The way you sit throughout your day determines your overall posture in ALL areas of your life. This means the posture when you go to work, drive, exercise, walk, sleep etc will also be affected! That is a HUGE problem!
Bad sitting posture = PAIN !
With bad posture in your daily activities (not just whilst sitting), you are at a considerably higher risk of developing postural pain (…and if you’re reading this article, chances are you probably already have the pain). Help your body work at its optimal state by re-aligning your sitting posture!
Since the majority us now pretty much live in front of the computer (yes – I’m referring to you), we have developed strategies that have adapted and moulded our body to sit… none of which are particularly helpful in our quest to be pain free from postural pain.
Over time, the brain learns your sitting habits and eventually your bad posture simply becomes a default setting for you. It becomes natural and normal. And that’s where it gets a little tricky…
The brain is quite stubborn; once it learns a certain way of doing something, it will be very resistive to change. It’s almost like me telling a right handed person to start writing with their left hand only.
Re-train your brain, exercise the right muscles, fix your posture.
Before getting into the details, please download my FREE e-book: How to set up the workstation. Without a good sitting environment, it will be very difficult for you to maintain optimal postures, especially if you are there for around 8 hours a day. It also goes through the general alignment in ideal sitting.
But let’s get specific…
The pelvis: The foundation of your good posture.
Your pelvis. This is where all good posture starts. This is your base… your core platform… your foundation.
If your pelvic position is out, your whole posture will be out. You need to get this right. I often tell my patients to think of a tall stack of bricks. If the bottom brick (your pelvis) is not aligned properly, then the rest of the stack will be unstable.
There are these pointy bones at the bottom of your pelvis called the ischial tuberosities (… let’s call them your sit bones).
Slide your hand underneath your bottom and see if you can locate them on yourself. Did you find them?
The trick to sitting is to get your body stacked on top of these sit bones. The problem I see evident in most of my patients is that they tend to let their tail bone tuck underneath and sit behind the sit bones (as opposed to on top of).
How to position your pelvis
To understand how you should position your pelvis in sitting, you first need to know the difference between tilting your pelvis forward/backwards and finding your neutral position (the “in between” position).
Check out this video below for a quick explanation.
Video from ProPhysiotherapy.
Great! Now that you know what your neutral pelvic position is, the next step is to activate your brain whilst sitting!
Wait… What does that mean?
Whilst sitting, you want to consciously maintain your pelvis in a neutral and relaxed position. Remember that your brain is wired to sit the wrong way and will go back to its default setting if you let it. Keep that brain active. Be aware. Maintain this optimal pelvic position.
Top 5 reasons why you can’t position your pelvis properly… And exercises to fix it
1. Tight hamstring/gluteal muscles
If your hamstrings are tight, this muscle group will make it very difficult to get your pelvis in the neutral position. As you sit down, the tight hamstrings will pull on your pelvis causing your body to sit behind your sit bones.
A very general indication to tell if you are tight is that if you can’t touch your toes from a standing position.
Solution: STRETCH! As seen in the diagrams above, hold each stretch for a minimum for 60 seconds and repeated 3-5 times per day. Remember if you can’t feel a decent stretch, then you are probably not stretching the right muscle.
2. Poor lumbar spine strength
The main muscles responsible for rotating your pelvis into a good position are called your lower back erectors. If these muscles are weak or inhibited, it will be difficult to get your pelvis into a neutral position. Good thing we can train these muscles quite easily!
Check out the exercises in the video below.
Video from GPPFitness.
3. Lack of flexion mobility in your hip joint
Your hip socket joint plays an important role in your sitting. If you lack true flexion at the hip, your body will compensate by tilting your pelvis in a posterior direction (tailbone tucked under) resulting in sitting behind your sit bones.
Solution: Hip mobilisation
Video from Generation Care Performance Centre.
Hip flexors tend to become very tight in the sitting population. After all, sitting is hip flexion. These tight muscles can pull your hip joint out of good alignment making it difficult to sit properly without compensatory movements in your pelvis
Solution: Hip flexor stretch. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds, and repeat 3-5 times.
4. Neural tension
Similar to tight hamstrings, if you have “tight” nerves at the back of your leg, it can limit your ability to get your pelvis into the neutral position.
There are several reasons as to why the connective tissue around the nerve can become tight, but we’ll leave that for another post for another day.
Solution: Nerve stretch.
Whilst keeping your leg as straight as possible, pull your leg (with a towel or something of the similar) as far away from the ground as possible. With the added pressure bending the ankle towards you, you should feel a firm stretch down the back of your leg.
Hold this for at least 30 seconds and repeat 3-5 times. Make sure you do both sides.
5. The size of your belly or quads
If you tend to have a large stomach or thigh area, this will create a physical block to keeping your pelvic in a neutral position.
If you fall into this category, I suggest that you sit from a slightly higher chair so that the angle between your thigh and body is around 120 degrees. This is to make sure your knees are lower than your hips to provide enough room around the pelvic area to sit properly.
Make sure you check out my FREE E-book: How to set up your workstation to ensure your work set up is the best for you.
Other general tips
- Keep your feet flat on the floor. You should use a foot rest if you have short legs. Your ankle, knees and hips should be roughly bent at 90-100 degrees.
- Distribute your weight evenly between your both buttock cheeks. Do not cross your legs for an extended period of time.
- Ensure that your chest is in a neutral position. You do not want the chest to pop up too high, nor hunch too low.
- Shoulder blades should be pulled back and down slightly. Make sure that you do not squeeze your shoulder blades together excessively.
- Keep your elbows gently tucked into the sides of your body.
- Gently keep your chin tucked in and elongate your neck.
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