We sit. Actually, we sit a lot. We sit when we eat our breakfast. We sit when we drive to work. We sit at work (at least many of us do). We sit when we drive home. We sit during dinner. We sit after dinner. In fact, the average adult sits for 9.3 hours per day.

Most people realize that so much sitting isn’t good, and therefore they may want to know what the ideal way to sit is so that they can reduce the damage they do to their spine while sitting.

Unfortunately, the advice that is usually given in response to that is to make sure that you sit with ‘perfect’ posture. This ‘perfect’ posture usually involves sitting with our feet placed flat on the floor, our knees and hips bent to 90 degrees, and our torso upright so that our ears are over our shoulders.

But is that really the ideal way to sit? Maybe, for 10 minutes or so.

The truth of the matter is that there isn’t one ideal sitting posture.

To understand why this is, it is necessary to understand two concepts. The first one is that all sitting, including sitting in ‘perfect’ posture, will strain certain parts of your back. The second one is that your back has a finite limit to how much strain it can handle, which, if exceeded, will result in pain and/or injury.

That means that if you keep the same sitting posture for too long, even if it is ‘perfect’ posture, you will eventually exceed your back’s tissue capacity and you will end up in pain.

Therefore, rather than continually maintaining a specific posture, the ideal way to sit is to frequently change your sitting posture. This shifts the strain from one part of your low back to another, preventing the strain applied to any one part of your back from exceeding its tissue capacity.

Of course, some postures will place greater strain on your low back than others. For example, slouching generally places more strain on your back than sitting in the so-called ‘ideal’ way described above. This doesn’t mean the postures that place more strain on your back, like slouching, have to be avoided though. It just means that you shouldn’t stay in those postures for as long.

So what is the ideal way to sit? To sit in a variety of ways, to change the way you are sitting every 10 minutes or so, and not to worry too much about ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ sitting postures.

As with most rules, there are exceptions, and this rule is no different. The exception is that if you have back pain while sitting, there probably are certain ways of sitting that you should avoid completely, at least temporarily. The postures to be avoided will vary person to person. For more information, please contact us.