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Workplace Ergonomics: Decrease your pain while you sit

Many people are taught it is proper to sit with their hips and knees bent to 90 degrees, but this is not entirely true.  The majority of people seeking ergonomic advice admit to having a slouched posture and report a feeling of tightness and pain in their neck, around their shoulder blades, and in their lower back.  Symptoms are typically aggravated as the day progresses due to muscular fatigue and the inability for the muscles to continuously contract to prevent further exaggerations of slouching.  However, due to this muscular fatigue, posture tends to deteriorate further throughout the day. 


It requires a significant amount of muscular energy to sit in a tall position when your hips and knees are bent to 90 degrees, and it isn’t exactly feasible to expect these muscles to contract continuously for an 8 hour work day.  As an experiment, sit in a low chair where your hips and knees are bent past 90 degrees and appreciate the amount of effort required to sit with a tall/straight spine posture.  Next, do the same experiment at a higher chair level so your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees, then raise the chair even higher so your knees are a good amount lower than your hips.  Which chair height requires the least amount of energy for you to maintain at tall/straight sitting posture?  Without a question of doubt, sitting with your hips at a higher level than your knees.  The reason for this is that raising the position of your chair or tilting the seat angle forward so the hip joints are at a higher position than the knees, changes the position of the pelvis and spine; therefore, decreasing the likelihood of a slouched posture. 


Prolonged slouched posture could put the back, neck, and shoulder blades in a poor position and lead to muscular, disc, ligamentous, or joint pain.  A Physical Therapist can help to balance the areas of the body that may be provoking a slouched posture in the patient.  Knowledge and application of proper sitting ergonomics, along with treatment for postural balance and enhanced function, is the best course of action.

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