Sitting is stressful, especially if it is endured for long hours. If you are sitting in a slumped position than you have lost your head. “Lost” meaning your head is no longer on top where it functions best. Instead, your upper back, shoulder and neck muscles are making a heroic effort to support your head.
Sitting habitually without a lumbar lordosis (low back curve) is a precursor for neck, shoulder and upper back pain. Hence the invention of lumbar support, to help you maintain that crucial curve even when sitting for long periods of time.
The good news is that by restoring the lumbar curve, your trunk becomes more vertical and your head moves back on top were it belongs. Balance in sitting is critical to having a healthy spine.
Check it out in the mirror. Sit sideways and watch your entire body profile as you slump with into a C curve. Watch what happens to you head and neck. The head drops forward as the entire front of the body shortens. Then, decrease that C curve by moving the waistline forward and see what happens to your head and neck. Notice that your head will move up and back as your spine lengthens. As you develop the habit of sitting with a slight lumbar curve you will be doing a lot for your neck.
Here’s how you can eliminate the stress on your neck while sitting. Find a seat with a hard flat surface. This will give you the most feedback about what position your pelvis is in which ultimately determines the curvature at the low back. Sit squarely with both feet planted on the floor. Envision the tiny coccyx bone at the very bottom of your spine and image you are scooping it under your body. As you do so you will find your spine going into a slumped position. Than do the opposite, drawing your tailbone back so that it is pointing behind you. If your body has the flexibility you waistline will now be pulled forward and you will have an arch at the low back. Now just relax that arch a bit until you have a curve that is soft and without strain. If you have enough flexibility in the pelvis to allow for this you will find that it is a position which brings your head back and up on top of your spine. Not only is this the optimal setup for your neck, it is also the optimal position for you entire spine. This position will even help you to avoid problems in arms such as carpal tunnel syndrome just by providing support for your structure.
Many people come to Rolfing lacking the flexibility to move through these positions. The lack of flexibility represents shortening in the soft tissues including muscle, fascia, tendons of the spine, abdomen, hips and legs. During the process of Rolfing these tissues are elongated and repositioned allowing for full unimpeded movement.
Once you have reached your optimal position for sitting you can move through your spine with length as you reach for objects in front of you. Sitting is not meant to be a static pose. Ideally, when we have good verticality, sitting is a dynamic process with many subtle movements in response to our breath.
Why not explore your potential with a Rolfing series? At Frome Physical Therapy, we are committed to supporting you in Caring For Your Health. Call us now 973.509.8464 or schedule online for your next appointment.
Image Courtesy: An illustration of good sitting posture | www.mlive.com