Does your sofa cause you back pain?
‘Ergonomic‘ – a term that is widely used in the workplace. In essence the term means that when something that is ergonomically designed it has you and your health and safety in mind. Ergonomics are viewed as really important to prevent musculoskeletal pain, particularly at work, but what about when you go home?
Does your body, particularly your spine, only need help and support when you are at work and like you needs a bit of time off when you are at home?
The short answer to this is NO.
The problem in so many cases of musculoskeletal pain are entirely preventable. Yes accidents, falls, sporting injuries and illness occur. What we are referring to is the slow and steady insidious build up of incidents, postures and movements that ultimately create back pain. It’s not what you do, it is the way that you do it!
The big one overriding this is your posture when you are sitting, driving, standing, walking and generally going about your day. The way you do these things all plays a part in the health of your spine and your chances of developing some form of back pain. Westerners spend 55-70 % of each day just sitting. That’s at least 12 hours every day! The way that you do it is crucial. For the purposes of this article though we shall focus on your back and the sofa.
Sitting, slouching on the sofa may feel comfortable at the time, and it may for many years, but there are changes that are going on in your spine as a result (Find out more about the changes happening in the spine when you slouch).
An article in the Daily Mail in July 2015 highlighted that 1 in 5 people experience back pain as a direct response to sitting on their sofa. That is a lot of unnecessary back pain that you have paid for. You are not entirely to blame either, not all sofas are built to the right dimensions for you.
There are a few principles for sitting that apply whether you are at work or at home, however the focus in ergonomic seating design seems to primarily be for the office market. So how well does your sofa stack up to ergonomic design?
If you are getting twitchy right now thinking that this is going to eliminate all comfort when you are chillaxing don’t worry, you can still have a sofa that supports you and is comforting to sit on… just bear with me for the moment.
So what should you look for in a sofa?
- When you are sitting on your sofa your hips should be positioned above your knees or at least level. Is you sofa seat high enough?
- You should be able to sit into the back of your sofa and place your feet on the ground. By this I mean the sofa should not be so deep that the seat is digging into the back of your knees or that you can only have your legs outstretched in front of you.
- You’re sofa should be supportive whilst still having a softness to it. We’re not saying it should be as solid as an office chair. Do you disappear into it because the foam is too soft and marshmallow like – this will not be supporting your body and may be contributing to discomfort.
If your sofa doesn’t have any of these plus points I would put money on you sitting in a slouched c-shaped position, which is putting pressure on your discs, muscles and ligaments at the base of your spine.
There are times when unfortunately buying a new sofa is the only solution, however there may also be ways that you can make your situation a whole lot better. After all, if more than one of you live in the same house your heights may vary from 2ft-7ft. In those situations there won’t be a sofa that will suit everyone so trying to find a best fit for both or making adaptations for one person with the sofa you do have may be enough to reduce the strain on your back.
If you are looking for a solution check out our article discussing our top 3 sofa back supports.