Sit Back, It’s Better for Your Back

Nov. 29, 2006 — Lean back before reading this; your back may thank you.

A new study suggests that sitting upright for hours at a time — for example, when working at a computer — may lead to chronic back pain. Instead, the best position for your back is somewhat reclined, sitting at a 135-degree angle rather than the 90-degree angle most office chairs are designed for.

“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,” says researcher Waseem Amir Bashir, MBChB, clinical fellow in the department of radiology and diagnostic imaging at the University of Alberta Hospital, Canada, in a news release. “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.”

Bashir presented the results of the study this week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago.

Comparing Sitting Positions

Back pain is one of the most common causes of work-related disability in the U.S. and helping to identify bad seating postures may help protect the spine and prevent injury.

Using “positional” magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) researchers studied the sitting positions of 22 healthy volunteers with no history of back pain. The MRI machine allowed freedom of motion, such as sitting or standing, during imaging. Conventional MRI machines require the patient to lie flat and may mask some causes of back pain.

Researchers used the MRI to examine spinal positioning while the participants assumed three different sitting positions: slouching forward (such as hunched over a desk or video game console), an upright 90-degree sitting position, and a relaxed position with the back reclined backward about 135 degrees while the feet were still on the floor.

Overall, researchers concluded that the 135-degree reclining position put the least stress on the spine and may reduce the risk of back pain. They recommend that people who sit for long periods of time correct their sitting posture and find a chair that allows them to recline.

“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,” says Bashir. “Employers could also reduce problems by providing their staff with more appropriate seating, thereby saving on the cost of lost work hours.”

SOURCES: Annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, Chicago. Nov. 26-Dec. 1, 2006. News release, Radiological Society of North America.

Tips and Preventative Techniques for Getting Back to Gardening

sore-gardenerGardening is a common pastime for all ages, and with some simple tips and stretches, you’ll be able to continue working pain free for many seasons to come.

  • Give your muscles a chance to warm up before working in the yard or garden. Practice stretching with the various movements you will be working in the yard, or take a short ten to fifteen-minute walk around the block.
  • Avoid prolonged bending, pushing and pulling while raking and hoeing, which can strain shoulders or the lower back.
  • Use long-handled tools, or the resulting forward and sideways bending can aggravate the neck or lower back.
  • To avoid strain and muscle spasm on one side of the body, switch hands frequently while raking or hoeing.
  • When using a hedge trimmer, keep your back straight and use short strokes to avoid upper arm and neck strain. Pause after three to five minutes.
  • Carry medium-to-small sized loads of debris close to your body, or use a wheelbarrow to avoid strain on your back. Save heavier work for mid-way through your chores. This helps avoid sudden strenuous exertion on unused muscles and joints.
  • Keep overhead work to five-minute episodes. Avoid extreme reaching with one arm.
  • Kneel to perform tasks, rather than bend.
  • Stretch! The following exercises will help prevent recurrences of spinal and related health problems. Back exercises should deal with flexibility first, strength second.
  • Finally, if a task seems like too much work, it probably is. Hire a professional for tasks like landscaping, tree-topping or trimming large hedges.

For more information, consult with your family chiropractor.

Hit the slopes – gently

“The two main causes of injuries among snowboarders and skiers are falls and collisions,” says Dr. Brad Yee. “The way to avoid injury is to do pre-season dry land training exercises. Snowboarders need to stabilize and strengthen their upper extremities, like their shoulders and arms,” says Dr. Yee. “Skiers need to strengthen their lower extremities, specifically quads and hamstring muscles.” Dr. Yee says that core strength for the spine is important for both sports.

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Harper announces $30 million for spinal cord injuries network

Last Updated: Friday, February 2, 2007 | 12:48 PM ET

CBC News

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced on Friday his government will contribute $30 million over five years to a national network that will focus on spinal cord injury research and rehabilitation.

Harper made the announcement at the Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre, where he was joined by spinal cord research advocate Rick Hansen.

Most of the government’s funding will go to the Hansen Foundation’s Spinal Cord Injury Translational Research Network — a group of Canadian researchers who help accelerate practical applications of research discoveries regarding spinal injuries.

“As the ultimate goal is to see people walking again, the majority of the funds I’m announcing today will be used to explore ways to reduce permanent paralysis,” Harper said.

Harper said more support will also go to those currently living with spinal cord injuries to help them with issues like mobility and independence.

He said that the new initiative will benefit all Canadians, not just those living in large centres.

Hansen, who was paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 15 following a car crash, is best known for his Man in Motion fundraising world tour. The trek spanned more than 40,000 kilometres, raising millions of dollars for those with spinal cord injuries.

In making the announcement, Harper was joined by Health Minister Tony Clement, and his parliamentary secretary Steven Fletcher.

Fletcher, the first quadriplegic to be elected to the House of Commons, was paralyzed after hitting a moose in a 1996 car accident.