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Dec 22,2006
Backache? Sitting upright could be culprit
by Radiological Society of North

“Dignified” might not always equal healthy. Sit­ting straight up­right strains the back un­nec­es­sar­ily, caus­ing po­ten­tially chron­ic pain prob­lems over the long run, a new study has found.

The sci­en­tists pre­sented the find­ings Nov. 27 in Chi­ca­go at the an­nu­al meet­ing of the Ra­di­o­log­i­cal So­ci­e­ty of North Amer­i­ca.

Sit­ting at 135 de­grees rath­er than 90 de­grees could im­prove back health, re­search­ers say.
“A 135-degree body-thigh sit­ting pos­ture was dem­on­strat­ed to be the best bio­me­ch­a­n­i­cal sit­ting po­si­tion, as op­posed to a 90-degree pos­ture, which most peo­ple con­sid­er nor­mal,” said Wa­seem Amir Ba­shir of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Al­ber­ta Hos­pi­tal in Can­a­da, one of the re­search­ers. 

“Sit­ting in a sound an­a­tom­ic po­si­tion is es­sen­tial, since the strain put on the spine and its as­so­ci­at­ed li­g­a­ments over time can lead to pain, de­for­m­i­ty and chro­n­ic ill­ness.”

Back pain is the most com­mon cause of work-re­la­ted dis­a­bil­i­ty in the Unit­ed States, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tion­al In­sti­tute of Neu­ro­log­i­cal Dis­or­ders and Stroke. 

“We were not cre­at­ed to sit down for long hours, but some­how mod­ern life re­quires the vast ma­jor­i­ty of the glob­al pop­u­la­tion” to work sit­ting, Ba­shir said. 

His team stud­ied 22 vol­un­teers with no his­to­ry of back prob­lems, us­ing a new form of an ex­ist­ing tissue-scanning tech­nol­o­gy, mag­net­ic res­o­nance im­ag­ing. The new “po­si­tional” ver­sion of the scan­ner lets pa­tients adopt dif­fer­ent po­si­tions, rath­er than hav­ing to lie flat as with the tra­di­tion­al machines. 

The vol­un­teers sat three dif­fer­ent ways: slouch­ing, or hunched for­ward; up­right, a 90-degree po­si­tion; and “re­laxed,” lean­ing back­ward 135 de­grees with feet on the floor. 

Spi­nal disks are prone to risky shifts when the spine car­ries weight, the re­search­ers said; this was most pro­nounced at 90 de­grees and least at 135. Slouch­ing re­duced spi­nal disk height, indicating wear and tear on low­er spi­nal lev­els, they added.

Across all mea­sure­ments, the re­search­ers con­clud­ed that the 135-degree po­si­tion fared the best. “This may be all that is nec­es­sary to pre­vent back pain, rath­er than try­ing to cure pain that has oc­curred,” Ba­shir said. “Em­ploy­ers could al­so re­duce prob­lems by pro­vid­ing their staff with more ap­pro­pri­ate seat­ing, there­by sav­ing on the cost of lost work hours.”

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