The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Long Sitting - Simple and More Comfortable

As you read this, we will have been on several days of flights and trains.

Sitting for long periods does not have to be uncomfortable, whether at the desk, on a flight, when driving. Most lists of instructions for sitting without hurting your back tell you to sit in exact ways at exact angles. This is not needed. Instead, it's better to understand the concepts of how and why strain and injury occur when sitting. Then you can sit in healthy ways that are comfortable, easy, and healthy.

Many desk chairs, even expensive ergonomic chairs are made so that you sit with your spine rounded forward. Sitting rounded eventually creates herniating forces on your discs, explained in The Cause of Disc and Back Pain and Are You Making Your Exercise Unhealthy?

Commercial airline, bus, and train seats often have a concave seat back, encouraging prolonged, enforced rounding. So do many car seat backs, even those saying they have lumbar support.

  • If your seat back is too concave, pad the space with a small cushion.
  • Use a pad about the size of your own forearm.
  • Place the pad in the small inward curve of your lower back.
  • Don't remain sitting rounding forward against the lumbar pad out of habit. A lumbar roll will not make you sit right.
  • Lean your upper back against the chair. Don't press your lower back against the pad.
  • If your lumbar roll hurts, it is not right. It should not be a hard material that hurts you. See if you have it positioned in the right place.
  • At a desk, move your seat in closer so that you do not round or lean forward to reach or see the computer.

If the seat is very concave, you may need two pillows, one for the small inward curve of your low back, and the second above that one for your upper back, in the space still left by the rounded seat. The upper back has a small outward curve, however sitting with a large outward curve creates upper back pain.

Get up frequently to move. Future Fitness Fixer articles will cover more about lumbar roll use and misuse.

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Drawing of Backman™ © copyright Dr. Bookspan from the book Fix Your Own Pain Without Drugs or Surgery

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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.