This week the Radiological Society of America released a snippet from their recent annual conference concerning the “best biomechanical sitting posture .” Media outlets quickly spread the word to all of us that according to, Waseem Amir Bashir, MBChB, clinical fellow in the department of radiology and diagnostic imaging at the University of Alberta Hospital, Canada, the best anatomical sitting posture is a reclined position of about 135 degrees.

I am both totally in agreement and totally abhorred.

This is a classic example of what pines me when the media covers scientific exploits. In this study, the researchers used a nifty type of positional MRI machine that allowed subjects to move freely as they were imaged. The joint spaces were then measured and it was determined that 135 degrees of recline was the position that produced the least amount of forces in the low back. They concluded that sitting upright might not be the way to go. In this, I agree. The best position for your spine is actually standing, upright sitting being the worst with respect to intradiscal forces, or the force that your spine experiences from gravity. However, to make a statement is dangerous.

“This may be all that is necessary to prevent back pain, rather than trying to cure pain that has occurred over the long term due to bad postures,” Bashir continues.

This postural study cannot take into account muscle support, associative reactions in the cervical spine and physiologic effects from compressed organs. What about adaptive shortening of anterior cervical muscles from a head held in a prolonged flexed position? I can picture the company now that runs out and spends to put all their workers in this reclined position only to lose all of them to severe neck pain in short time.

Please talk to a professional before any seating is purchased. Remember, the media are not scientists or health care practitioners and so we cannot really hold them too accountable for such reporting, can we?

If you’re really in a press for seating guidelines, here we go: Sit up straight and comfortable with some lumbar support, change positions often, find a reason to get up and stretch. Simple.

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