Symbiotic Active Sitting, Author at Active Sitting Chair for Posture & Back Pain

How Smartphones and Tablets Are Affecting Your Spine

How Smartphones and Tablets Are Affecting Your Spine

Whether you call it “Text Neck” or “Tech Neck”, most of you reading this have probably endured at least some form of neck or back pain, headache, or even jaw pain. It may have not been obvious at the time of experiencing your symptoms, but the use of your smartphone or tablets are one of the main causes of your symptoms. And over time, guess what can happen… even your posture, or the way you hold yourself up, can change! Sadly, these changes are occurring earlier in life for our younger generations. Without a doubt, children these days are using these pieces of technology way more than our older generations have or ever will, especially since kids use these for school and for play. It is time we start to educate everyone on how these, handy, yet debilitating devices are affecting our spine and ultimately our entire health and wellness. What is happening when we use a smartphone or tablet? We use these items for communication, research, scheduling, navigation, ordering food to be delivered, online shopping etc. Reliance has grown tremendously, even in the last 10 years. In the United Kingdom, the average amount of time spent on the phone in 2019 was 3 hours and 23 minutes. This number increased in the 16-24 year old groups to 4 hours a day. And in the United States, the average American spends 5.4 hours a day on their phone. Again, that millennial group was found to spend slightly more time on their phones, 5.7 hours.  Remember, these are averages, some people are on their phones for 12+ hours! No matter what age we are, when we use these devices we put our spine into a poor position. Think about yourself as you use your smartphone or tablet. What sort of positions do you find yourself in? Perhaps some of these ring a bell:

  • Bending of your neck so that you can lower your eyes to look at the device.
    • Over stretching and weakness begins to occur throughout all of the muscles meant to support the spine. To try to help add some stability, as your neck is bent forwards you may then slightly extend your head up. This is called forward head posture and is one of the main causes of headaches!

Forward head position deteriorated by laptop

Forward head posture

  • Excessive round of your shoulders, especially the one holding the device.
    • You need to be able to hold the smartphone or tablet in front of you, therefore you can’t help but to round your shoulder forwards (unless you knew the importance of posture!). And the rounding worsens the more that your neck is bent forwards.
  • Excessive rounding of your thoracic spine.
    • Your neck and your thoracic spine (aka your mid back) are so connected. As you continue to keep your neck bent and your head forwards, the rest of your spine continues to round with it. It can get back enough until one day you cannot sit up tall anymore. Can you imagine what this does to your organs, especially your ability to take a nice, full, deep breath of air?

Mid-back rounding

Mid-back rounding smartphones tablets

  • Guess what? That rounding goes all the way down to your lumbar spine (aka your low back).
    • Your pelvis, or you can think of it as your tailbone, will even start to tuck underneath of you, turning off your powerful hip muscles and tightening the muscles in the front of your hips. Check out this post on upper and lower cross syndrome!

And, most likely, if you are holding the device in one hand, you are probably side bent through your whole back to that one side. Whether this is because you are leaning over to support that arm on a table or armrest while you use your phone or just out of pure weakness and inability to hold yourself up, it can wreak havoc on your body. Now, these points are just a general overview, but these are also the most common postural deviations noted with use of these smart devices. Can you see yourself in any of these positions while you use them? A recent study on college students found that all of these postural impairments do occur. (Honestly, all of us can see these effects on people using smart devices if we know what we are looking for). This article demonstrated:

  • Rounding of the shoulders
  • Thoracic Spine kyphosis (increase in the curve, or rounding)
  • Neck bend, not only forwards, but also to the side
  • Pelvic obliquity (the pelvis is out of alignment)

All of these postural imbalances can result in long term pain, impairments, and decreased ability to concentrate.¹ Let’s look a little more at the consequences the use of these devices have on our health and wellness. Consequences on our health and wellness We will start back up at the neck. Studies have shown that the increase in flexion, or bending of our neck, causes changes in the natural curve of our spine. A healthy back has three natural curves: a slight forward curve in the neck called a cervical curve, a slight backward curve in the upper back called the thoracic curve, and a slight forward curve in the low back called the lumbar curve. You know by now can be destroyed by poor posture associated with use of these devices. As our posture changes, there is an increase in stress through the spine of our neck as the natural curve cannot attenuate the weight of the head and gravity, as well as the ground reaction force, whether we are sitting or standing. Besides the joints of the spine enduring more stress, the surrounding ligaments and muscles obtain more stress and can start to spasm. There is actually another fun fact about our neck, it has so many receptors that provide our brains information on where we are in space, how our head is aligned with the rest of the body, and what it needs to do to keep the eyes level. Honestly, our body’s number one goal is to keep our eyes level and it will do whatever else it needs to do to the spine in order to achieve this goal. But with the increase in stress, spasms, and as mentioned above, the overstretching and weakness that happens to the spine, the receptors don’t work as well. You can imagine the potential visual and balance problems, headaches, and eye strain that can occur.² Let’s move down to the thoracic spine. This area of our spine, our mid back, also includes our ribs as our ribs attach onto our spine! Try taking a deep breath. You probably feel your ribs expanding (if not, you may want to work with a Physical Therapist on this). Now, bend forwards, such as when you are using a smart device, and try to take another deep breath. You just physically cannot! You are stopping your ribs from expanding by rounding your mid back and “squishing” your rib cage, which also presses on your organs, decreasing your diaphragm function, and inhibits your lungs from fully filling with air.³ And as we move down to the low back, remember, all of the rounding that happens above, continues to work its way down. Whether you are sitting or standing, your pelvis will then start to tilt, or tuck, underneath of you, decreasing your ability to use all of your muscles of your core and hips appropriately. While these devices have gained popularity in the last decade, the problems associated with them have not. There could also be health implications that we are not aware of due to the fact that these devices are still relatively new. How can we improve our chances? If everyone could understand the importance of posture, we may all be in a better position, figuratively and literally. It is possible to improve posture while using a device. Simply knowing what posture to sit or stand in and then knowing the correct stretching and strengthening exercises to do can be very beneficial. (This is for another article at another time.) But for immediate assistance you can purchase some accessories or implement some features that can make your ability to use your smartphone or tablet a lot easier while also improving the health of your spine.

  • Tablet holder, whether this is used on your lap or on a desk, it can decrease how much you have to bend your neck and head down.
  • Use hand free features, such as talk to text and text to speech features.
    • Talk to text allows you to talk to your phone while it types what you are saying which is helpful for texts, emails, and even for search engines.
    • Text to speech is a feature that allows your device to read whatever it is that is on the screen out loud to you.
  • Active sitting chairs, such as the Symbiotic chair.
    • This type of chair allows you to sit comfortably with the freedom to use your own muscles to move your spine around to more natural and healthy positions.
  • Alternate what hand is typing or scrolling on the device.
  • Take frequent breaks!

These smartphones and tablets allow us to do so much. They have been life changing in this pandemic as they have the ability to connect people across the globe. They provide instant information to our pressing questions about the world. And they can occupy us when we need a distraction from what is going on around us. But we need to make changes now so that we can avoid the long term pain and disability that can arise, especially in our spine, and so that we can continue to use these amazing and advanced devices throughout the course of the rest of our lives.

Author: Adria Biasi, US based Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist  

Sources

 

How Ergonomics Affects Productivity

How Ergonomics Affects Productivity

As our society continues to advance in nearly all fields of work, it is of the utmost importance that we continue to advance how we ourselves, as humans, perform the work in these different fields. How we work to complete our tasks directly influences our productivity. And in our society, productivity is one thing that can make or break your company.

To really understand how ergonomics affect productivity, we first need to define these two words.

Ergonomics is the science of observing and understanding the interactions between the human and other elements of a system, particularly the workplace. The result of this science is the ability to apply these observations towards designing a safe and efficient workplace in order to optimize human well-being and overall performance.

Ergonomics allow workers to do their jobs. Do it right, do it safely, do it with comfort, and do it with accuracy.”¹

Productivity is defined as the ratio between output and input. This measurement tells us how efficient a particular company’s production inputs are being used to produce a given level of output.

“Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything. A country’s ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker.” – Paul Krugman, The Age of Diminishing Expectations

 For decades we have known that ergonomics can enhance productivity. Research goes all the way back to the 1970’s and 1980’s. And the same basic ideas and principles still hold true today²:Avoid static work

  • Avoid extreme position of joints
  • Avoid overloading of the muscular system
  • Aim to be at the best mechanical advantage
  • Avoid unnatural postures
  • Maintain a proper sitting posture
  • Permit change of posture
  • Match job demands to the workers capacity

A simple, yet powerful example of how effective the application of improved ergonomics is on productivity is shown in a study done on an electronic assembly line. Using a redesigned console to provide better ergonomics to the employees resulted in a 64% reduction in time it took to complete their required tasks and with 75 fewer errors.²

The way in which ergonomics provides endless benefits to productivity can be seen as a continuous, positive feedback loop. Follow me along on this loop.

 Positive feedback loop

Improved ergonomics improves posture and the comfort of the worker, decreases pain, and decreases the risk of a workplace injury. With this improved posture and comfort, the employee is better able to concentrate at the task at hand.

The employee is therefore more satisfied with their job, not just because they feel good, but also because they recognize that the employer cares about their well-being. This employer appreciation is demonstrated through their willingness to provide better ergonomically sound workstations. A happy employee will continue to provide good quality work and increase productivity.

In addition, improved posture and comfort with reduced risk of pain and injury also results in decreased time off of work. Having an employee off of work can obviously hinder productivity and can cost the employer more money. But, improving ergonomics is one thing a company can do to help decrease this risk.

This positive feedback loop continues around and around, offering benefits to production levels and to the overall well-being of the employee and the employer.

Let’s look at these parts of the cycle a little deeper.

Improved posture

 One of the main goals of ergonomics is to improve posture. And by improving posture we decrease risk of pain and injury.

Designing a workstation with proper ergonomic works to prevent repetitive strain injuries to our musculoskeletal system that can over time lead to long-term disability.¹

This is very important to consider given the fact that work-related musculoskeletal disorders are one of the most frequently reported causes of loss of work time. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these types of injuries accounted for one third of all worker injury and illness cases.³

Ergonomics works to improve posture by adjusting the workstation to fit the user without the user having to sit, stand, or move around in less than ideal positions. These ideal setups minimize stress to the body, decrease repetitive strain, and keep the spine in a neutral, healthy position.

And remember, improved posture equals less pain, allowing the employee to focus more on work than their nagging ache and pain. The result? Improved productivity.

Improved satisfaction

Many studies have demonstrated the power that ergonomics can have on job satisfaction.

Improved satisfaction increases employee morale, quality of work life, and overall retention. All of which ultimately increases productivity.

This is especially true in terms of long-term employee retention. With less time spent on recruiting, hiring, and training there is more time to be spent on the overall production, or output, for the company, while maintaining the health and wellbeing of all employees.

The employee is the ultimate user of the workplace and it is imperative that the workplace is designed specifically for the employee to be able to perform to their best ability while making sure their health and safety is at the front line.

All of this leads to increased productivity

It is obvious that in order to remain competitive as a company, ergonomics must be considered as this plays a large role in productivity.

By removing barriers to an employee’s ability to complete their job with as much ease as possible, productivity can increase.

 What steps can you take today?

There are several different programs that companies can utilize to help improve their ergonomics. Plus, highly trained Physical or Occupational Therapists can come into the workplace to evaluate each individual employee and their workstation. This evaluation will provide feedback from a trained professional on what things need to be improved in order to have the best ergonomic setup, ultimately improving productivity.

Here is a list of things that you can change today in order to improve your ergonomics:

 Adjust your computer screen so it is at eye level.

  • Keep your mouse close to your keyboard.
  • Adjust the height of the table or chair so that your elbows can stay bent at 90 degrees.
  • Move your keyboard and mouse closer to you so that you do not have to over reach with your arms.
  • Move your computer screen to a distance that allows you to see the screen without needing to lean in.
  • Swap out your chair for an active sitting chair, like the Symbiotic Chair, that provides adequate support for your pelvis while allowing you to actively use your core muscles to move around freely, adjusting your posture as needed.
  • Adjust your equipment so that you can avoid having to turn or bend your body in awkward positions in order to use it.

The most important thing to remember is that ergonomics can be an easy, yet worthwhile factor to consider when evaluating your company’s productivity. Ergonomics, without a doubt, will improve your productivity through several different means. Whether it improves posture, decreasing pain, improves concentration, or improves employee satisfaction, you cannot go wrong by addressing each and everyone’s ergonomics.

Author: Adria Biasi

US based Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist

Sources

 

 

 

The Relationship Between the Psoas, Stress, and Active Sitting

The Relationship Between the Psoas, Stress, and Active Sitting

The psoas is such a unique and important muscle. Besides its contribution to many movements and postures, it is highly associated with stress, anxiety, and many other emotions. Sometimes people try to treat dysfunction of the psoas muscle with excessive stretching and strengthening, but this may not always be the appropriate treatment.

How can the psoas contribute to stress and emotions?

Understanding the psoas’ relationship to low back pain is easy to understand, and has been discussed more in depth in our previous post, How Active Sitting Can Bring Back Your Psoas Balance.

To really answer the question of how the psoas relates to other aspects of our wellbeing, we will look at:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology

Anatomy

 The psoas muscle, pronounced “so-az”, is a very large muscle. In fact, it is one of the main muscles that attaches our spine to our lower body. It is known as the keystone of a balanced and well-organized body.¹ There is no denying the magnitude of this muscle as it averages 16 inches long. Attaching from the lower thoracic spine, upper lumbar spine, to the top of the femur, it is considered a hip flexor muscle, but it is so much more than that.¹

It has an energetic relationship with several organs, nerve bundles, blood vessels, and our powerful breathing muscle, the diaphragm.² The upper portion of the psoas and the diaphragm meet at what is known as the solar plexus.³ The solar plexus is one of our 7 chakras, and this one is specifically tied to feelings of personal power and the control of our feelings.

Physiology

Now that we understand more where the psoas is located in the body, let’s take a deeper look at the physiology, or the way the psoas either affects our body or how it is impacted by how we function as a whole.

As the psoas is located between our low back and our hips, it can shorten over time due to our sitting postures. The shortening of our psoas can actually change our posture. Over time, people with shortened psoas muscles may start to lean forwards, losing their full upright posture. This shortening of the front of our body may then cause tightness of or abdominal muscles, decreased diaphragmatic function, and potential impingement on nerves and blood vessels.

This shortened, closed down position can inhibit our solar plexus. Think about it, if you are unable to fully open up, stretching the front of your body, standing tall and proud, not only can this cause actual pain in your body but can actually impact your emotional well-being.

By now, you have been introduced to the relationship between the psoas and the diaphragm. So now, imagine if you are unable to take full deep breaths? Shortness of breath is one of the main signs of anxiety. Not being able to fully open up and expand can create shortness of breath, which can create anxiety, and then the anxiety can cause even more shortness of breath, as well as other symptoms. As you can tell, it can turn into a vicious cycle.

But besides the relationship to the diaphragm, the psoas muscle is intricately connected to the sympathetic nervous system, which is our flight or fight response mechanism.²

“The psoas is the primal messenger of the central nervous system. It is much more than simply a muscle, it can be perceived as the guardian or spokesperson of Dan Tien, Hara, or what is commonly referred to as your ‘gut intuition’. In some spiritual philosophies, the psoas is referred to as ‘the muscle of the soul‘.”

 – Liz Koch, Creator of Coreawareness.com

If the psoas is constantly in a state of tightness and overuse, physical tightness around nerves can occur, causing impediment to their conduction and flow. And, if this happens to our sympathetic nervous system, many symptoms can arise.

The sympathetic nervous system, known as our fight or flight response. If it is constantly stressed by a tightened psoas, our bodies will not be able to decipher when it needs to “rest and digest.” ²

Symptoms of a dysfunctional psoas

It may be difficult to tell if you are experiencing stress, anxiety, or other emotions related to your psoas.¹ ²

One major sign is a general tightness of the front of your hips, difficulty standing up tall and taking long steps, especially if you have to sit a lot for work. If you experience any of these, along with back pain, you may very well also be experiencing more stress and anxiety from your psoas tightness.

If you feel like you are unable to relax, take deep breaths and stay present in the moment, you may be feeling more emotional side effects of dysfunctional psoas muscles.

If you do have to sit a lot at work, the stress from work can make matters even worse.

How to resolve psoas dysfunction?

 All of these symptoms are related to a tight and dysfunctional psoas and can be difficult to address. Some people will stretch and strengthen their psoas for hours without any release in symptoms. This is because they are just continuing to aggravate their nerve bundles. Sometimes, nerves just do not want to be over stretched.

Think about it. When you are stressed and have a million things to do, the last thing you want to do is add something else to your plate and stretch yourself even further. Same for your nervous system. Instead, you may need to work on improving your posture, how you are sitting at work, and using other techniques to release your psoas.

Active sitting to help improve stress, anxiety, and other emotions

If you find yourself with any of these emotions, back pain, or other frustrating ailments, you may be suffering from psoas dysfunction, which in turns causes a myriad of other health problems. As you now know, the psoas has a direct relationship to many other essential body parts and processes, from nerves to our breathing muscle, to blood flow and organ function.²

Sometimes people try to stretch or strengthen their psoas in order to fix their dysfunction. But this does not always work for some people. The reason is, most of the time, people begin to develop these issues from their postures and how they hold themselves.

So why not treat the source of the symptoms?

In our day and age, people have to sit for hours and hours for work. While there are several resources for ergonomics and how to improve them, there just is not too much information about active sitting.

Active sitting is a type of sitting that allows you to move your trunk and core freely while you are still stable on a comfortable and supportive chair. Having a chair that allows movement of your trunk and core means that you get to use your postural, stabilizing muscles throughout the day. Use of these muscles means you will have better posture, will sit more upright, will maintain strength of your core, and have a healthy blood flow in this region from constant muscle work throughout the day. All of this creates a healthier environment for your psoas and the nearby nerves, blood vessels, and organs.

The Symbiotic Chair is one of the best active sitting chairs that you can use to help achieve whole body health. It provides a comfortable, supportive seat on top of a balancing mechanism. This balancing aspect is what allows you to move and use your muscles.

Imagine being able to decrease your stress, anxiety, and other emotions, by simply changing your chair. You will no longer have to stress about your stress! By opening up your hips, using your core muscles and micromovements to improve nerve and blood flow, your breathing, and the recharging the energetic state of your solar plexus, you will be able to experience more joy and less pain while at work, but also throughout the rest of your life.

Author: Adria Biasi

US based Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist

Sources

 

Can a Posture Correcting Chair Improve Mental Performance?

Can a Posture Correcting Chair Improve Mental Performance?

Chances are, you are probably sitting down while you read this. Perhaps you are on break at work, trying to get through your mid-day crash. Another cup of coffee or a granola bar are just not cutting it these days. Too bad your office chair can’t fold out into a bed so you can take an afternoon nap.

But what if your chair could actually boost your performance, just in a different way? Could you believe that a posture correcting chair can actually improve your mental performance?

What is a posture correcting chair?

Posture correcting chairs are pretty self-explanatory. They are specialized chairs that help to improve one’s posture, especially while sitting at work for hours upon hours each day.

But of course, there are several different types of chairs to choose from:

One of the best posture correcting chairs to improve mental performance is an active sitting, also called dynamic sitting, chair. A great example of this is the Symbiotic Chair.

An active sitting chair allows you to engage your muscles while allowing you to move freely with balance and adequate support. In other types of posture correcting chairs, you do not have the balancing mechanism that allows you to use your own core and postural muscles to move while still maintaining support from the chair.

This continuous movement and muscle contraction and relaxation promotes a healthy environment, not just for your low back health but also for your mental performance. Plus, it increases your overall physical activity throughout the day.

What is mental performance?

Mental performance encompasses so many different things, especially as it relates to psychology and the workplace.

Major components of mental performance includes:

  • Ability to focus
  • Memory
  • Problem solving
  • Functioning of the executive mind
  • Stress resistance
  • Productivity

How many times have you felt like your work performance has decreased due to being uncomfortable at your desk, because of back pain, or just from being stiff and sore from sitting for so long?

This is because your mental performance at work is directly tied to your physical body, your ergonomics, and the chair you are using.¹

Use of posture correcting chair to improve mental performance

Your posture and mental performance create a cycle. This cycle can either be vicious, or healthy and enjoyable. Finding the right chair can help break the bad cycle.

For example, if you are sitting at work in a comfortable, ergonomically friendly chair, you are more likely to have good posture. This good posture promotes improved productivity, decreases the chance of pain or injury developing, and simply makes your work day more enjoyable.² ³ Proper posture, from a well-designed chair, promotes good mental performance at work.

On the other hand, say you have a bad chair, one that is not posture correcting. This improper chair makes you sit slouched and slumped over.² As you adopt this posture, pain can arise and it shortens the muscles in the front of your body, and lengthens and weakens the ones in the back. This decreased mobility and increase in weakness and in pain that comes from poor posture is going to inevitably decrease your mental performance at work. You may become even more distracted by your pain. Then you may become even more tired and slouch even more! And the negative, vicious cycle continues to spiral.

But, if you have a posture correcting chair, you are less likely to go down the path of pain, injury, and poor mental performance.⁴

There is a growing amount of evidence proving how valuable your posture and your chair are when it comes to mental performance at work.

One of the most important studies done so far has looked at the school aged population. This particular study demonstrates the amount of physical activity that comes from using an active sitting chair actually improved the ability of the students to stay on task and improved their academic achievement levels.⁵ If you recall from earlier, active sitting chairs are one of the best types of posture correcting chairs.

They found that this increase in physical activity from the active sitting chair, provided more stimulation and an increase in the sensory experience, allowing the students to stay more engaged in the tasks at hand.⁵

Another recent study looked at an older population. Instead of students, this population consisted of working aged adults. This study assessed different sitting and standing postures and how it affects cognitive performance. This study found that the standard sitting posture was the best posture for helping to increase cognitive performance in the workplace.⁴

Let’s face it. Not all of us can simply stop sitting at work. Some of us cannot use a standing, treadmill, or cycle desk. But maybe some of these standing options are not even the best for productivity and mental performance at work.

So, if you have to sit for work, you may as well sit with a posture correcting chair, especially if it promotes active sitting, as you will feel better both physically and mentally at work.

Author: Adria Biasi

Author is US based Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist

Sources

  1. https://www.indianweb2.com/2018/02/23/simple-office-chair-can-affect-productivity/#:~:text=Many%20studies%20have%20found%20that,your%20total%20output%20aka%20productivity.
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3552974/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5889545/
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322560848_Investigating_the_Effects_of_Different_Working_Postures_on_Cognitive_Performance
  5. https://www.longdom.org/open-access/do-you-want-your-students-to-pay-moreattention-in-class-try-dynamicseating-2165-7556-1000217.pdf
How Active Sitting Can Bring Back Your Psoas Balance

How Active Sitting Can Bring Back Your Psoas Balance

Sitting all day long can wreak havoc on your body. Unfortunately, most people spend an average of 9.5 hours sitting per day. From chronic pain to metabolic diseases, there is really no good thing that can come from sitting. This includes loss of psoas balance, which can cause a myriad of problems, including chronic low back pain. Fortunately, active sitting can help combat the negative effects that prolonged sitting has on your psoas muscle.

The term “psoas balance” may be new to you. But once you understand the importance of your psoas muscle and its relationship with sitting, your life will be forever changed, in a positive way. In order to achieve psoas balance, you must introduce active sitting into your work day, and really throughout your entire day.

Why is psoas balance important?

The psoas muscle, pronounced “so-as”, is one of the most important and unique muscles of our low back and hips. It is actually the only muscle that has a major connection between our trunk and our legs.¹

This large muscle has direct attachments onto the front of our lumbar spine and directly onto our femur.² As you bend at your hips, whether to pick your leg up or to bend over to tie your shoe, you are using your psoas muscle. Besides helping to bend at our hips, the psoas also helps to stabilize our core, as well as providing assistance to many other bodily functions¹:

  • Postural alignment
  • Major role in walking
  • Supports internal organs such as the kidneys and adrenal glands
  • Assists in proper breathing mechanics, aiding the diaphragm for full deep breaths

Psoas balance refers to having both enough flexibility and enough strength to be able to properly assist in all daily activities. Whether you are sitting, walking, dancing, climbing, or even sleeping, you need your psoas muscles to be long enough and strong enough in order to avoid low back pain.

If your psoas is out of balance, the tight muscles can compress your low back, putting pressure on your vertebrae and spinal discs. Over time this can cause pain, injury, and may even cause someone to have surgery that very well could have been avoided.³

Your psoas can also be out of balance if your muscles are weak. If these muscles are weak, your body will begin to try to use other muscles for assistance with core stabilizing, postural alignment, and for walking or other hip flexion or trunk bending activities. As other muscles take on the work, low back pain and even other areas of pain can arise.

One of the most common reasons why imbalance in the psoas muscle occurs is from sitting. Quite frankly, humans sit way too much. While overall sitting time can decrease, not all sitting can be avoided. So, if you have to sit, you will have better success with maintaining psoas balance, and eliminating low back pain by engaging in active sitting.

Psoas balance and active sitting

When we sit in a standard chair, we put our psoas muscle in a shortened position.

Most of us sit with our hips at a 90 degree bend. This position brings the 2 attachment sites of the psoas closer together, the front of your spine and your femur. Combine this bent position with sitting for hours and hours, you will without a doubt have adaptive shortening over time. This adaptive shortening will cause decreased flexibility, inability to properly fire your psoas, and will result in low back pain.

Sure, you may be able to try to avoid this shortening and imbalance of your psoas by trying to avoid sitting for extended periods of time or by sitting with your hips higher than your knees.⁴

But even if you take multiple breaks through your work day and avoid sitting when you are at home, you will still most likely sit close to 30-40 hours per week if you have an office job.

And even raising the height of the chair, bringing your hips higher above your knees, is still shortening and tightening everything in the front of your body, including your psoas!

Your best bet in avoiding problems with your psoas balance is to implement active sitting. Active sitting refers to a type of sitting that allows you to use some or all of your postural and core stabilizing muscles.

A common way that people may begin to practice active sitting is through use of an exercise ball. However, there are other ways to more professionally and safely practice active sitting in the workplace. One way is through the use of the Symbiotic Chair.

Active sitting, whether through the use of the Symbiotic Chair, or other means, helps to prevent psoas imbalances. As mentioned previously, the psoas is a postural muscle, stimulates blood flow and lymphatic drainage to surrounding organs and tissues, and even has a role in improving the function of the diaphragm.¹ ⁴

So, if active sitting allows the users to use their own muscles, for support, balance, postural alignment, and overall control of both where the body and the chair are moving, that means the psoas is free to move, engage, and relax throughout the day.

A happy, moving, fluid psoas equals a happy, pain free low back, improved posture, better breathing, and overall better experience throughout the work day.

Active versus static sitting

Why is active sitting so much better for psoas balance than static sitting? Well, static sitting refers to sitting all day in a rigid chair. Even if your chair is set up correctly for your shape and size, including the use of lumbar support, you are still stuck in one, inflexible position for most of the day.

Think of static sitting as sitting on a piece of concrete and active sitting as sitting in a kayak, floating on the lake. Both involve sitting, but both are two totally different experiences.

Concrete, or a standard office chair, is very stable yet non-conforming to your movements. Your spine and muscles stay rigid. As you move forwards, your whole body moves as a unit. But in the kayak, or in an active sitting chair, you are supported but with freedom to move around. Different body parts can move with fluidity and more mobility, allowing your muscles, especially your psoas to be used in a more natural way.

The mico-movements that are promoted all day while in an active sitting chair allows for improved circulation and breathing. So, by using an active sitting chair, you are not only improving your psoas balance and low back pain, but you are improving the health of your whole body.

The psoas is a remarkable muscle and in future posts we will dive into the connection between psoas balance and our emotions and stress and how active sitting can improve all areas of our life.

But for now, try to incorporate active sitting in your work day.

Author: Adria Biasi

Author is US based Doctor of Physical Therapy and Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist

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