Could your comfy couch or luxe recliner be responsible for your body aches and pains? Studies show that people spend about 30% of their lives sitting. Those long hours lounging can lead to fatigue, pain, reduced muscle movement, and premature spinal cord degeneration. But in many cases, it's not sitting that leads to fatigue or pain. It’s the seating we choose.
Functionality and comfort can go hand in hand
Uncomfortable seats contribute significantly to the neck, back, and shoulder pain because they lack support. Our backs work overtime to help our bodies move, communicate messages to the brain, and keep us in an upright position. When we sit in seats that are too uncomfortable, it forces the discs in our back to hold up more of our weight, causing them to compress up to 30% more than when we are standing.
That means our spine loses some of the cushioning that keeps it in good working order. The back muscles also work harder to keep us vertical because we naturally tense up in our neck, shoulders, and pelvis to protect our spine from taking on too much of the burden.
Our spines also prefer to stay in an S-shape, which is why good posture is so important. Soft seating helps our muscles and spine relax, which in turn can also improve good posture. This is why a comfortable couch matters so much as most of our leisure time is spent in an armchair or couch relaxing.
While we shouldn't spend the whole day sitting, there are times we simply have to due to work. Softer chairs also encourage us to sit longer comfortably, which needless to say is important for back health.
Small Changes, Big Results
You don't have to spend your days standing around to solve back pain and muscle tension. There are ergonomic seating options for the home and office. Being aware of a few general rules for seating that supports a healthy spine can make a significant difference.
Limit the amount of time you sit. Kick back for a couple of hours each day, but get up and move as much as possible. Even swapping out a hobby desk or reading nook for a standing desk can significantly decrease the amount of time you spend in your favorite chair.
Pay attention to softness/firmness levels. Supportive springs provide external spine support. Look for something with some give but doesn't sink in when you're sitting.
Don't forget about the size
Size also plays an important role. You should be able to keep your knees and spine at a 90-degree angle while sitting. The back of the couch also should be sturdy enough to keep your spine straight when you lean against it.
Once you alleviate the aches and pains, it becomes easier to stay active and create healthier habits. Of course, you should always consult with a doctor if your conditions persist or worsen.