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Back aches and pains?

Why is sitting with bad posture a contributing factor to aches and pains?

Back ache

Woman sitting hunched forward at desk photo.

Is your sitting posture like this picture? If so this means you are allowing your lumbar spine to slouch (curve outwards). This puts uneven pressure on your discs, causing them to bulge backwards, which with time will distort and weaken them making them more liable to strain or herniate (slipped disc). It will also stretch and weaken the ligaments at the back of the spine, increasing the likelihood of ligament strain. Any of this happening will give you back ache as the muscles try to protect the damaged or weakened areas.

Leg and buttock pain

As the slumping causes weakness and damage to the lumbar ligaments and discs, the pain in your legs or buttocks could be "referred pain" originating in the lumbar area. If you are sitting with your pelvis tilting backwards, you may be putting pressure on a part of your buttocks that is not "designed" to take it, and this can cause buttock pain. Sitting on the “wrong” part of the buttocks can also put pressure on the nerves and blood vessels and cause numbness, tingling or pins and needles in the legs and feet.

Headache and neck pain

Woman sitting slouched back at desk photo.

Is your sitting posture like this picture? If you slump, with your upper spine curved forwards, you usually need to lift your head up so that you can look straight ahead (at the computer screen?). This is hard work for the muscles that hold the head up, and also means you are bending your neck joints too far backwards. Either of these factors can contribute to headaches and neck pain. Slouching puts pressure on the diaphragm and restricts “abdominal” breathing (breathing by moving the diaphragm up and down which pushes/pulls air in and out of the lungs) and forces you breath by raising and lowering the rib cage. This requires tightening of the muscles that support the rib cage (the scalene and sterno-cleido-mastoid muscles) that connect the top of the rib cage to the neck. This will be a contributing factor to more neck tension problems and will also tend to pull the head and neck further forward.

Shoulder pain

Your shoulder blades are meant to function in a “vertical” position. If you slump, with your upper spine curved forwards, your shoulder blades rest against your rib-cage, which makes it a little harder for them to move freely, and after a period of time this makes the shoulder muscles ache and stiffen up, as a result of the extra work they are having to do. (This stiffness in the shoulders causes tension in a muscle that links the shoulder to the upper neck, so that when you turn your head you may feel sharp pain in the neck as well as a feeling of neck stiffness and headaches).

Repetitive Strain Injury(RSI)/Tennis Elbow

If the shoulders have stiffened up, you then compensate by overworking the wrist and elbow joints and muscles. This causes fatigue and tension in these muscles, which then can be a contributing factor to RSI or tennis elbow.


How could sitting with bad posture a contributing factor to general health problems?

Digestive system problems

Person sitting slouched at desk photo.

Healthy body with NadaAllowing the chest to drop towards the pelvis puts pressure on the stomach and all the abdominal organs. (Just look at your stomach when you are sitting down; if it bulges more than when you are standing, then you are increasing pressure not only on the stomach but all the other internal organs as well.)

Compressing the stomach means there is less space inside it for food and the acid it produces for digestion. This can mean that the food and acid puts pressure on the "inlet valve" at the top of the stomach, which may eventually start to leak. If this happens, you will experience "heartburn" and if it happens frequently this will contribute to "inlet valve" damage and eventually "Hiatus Hernia", a very unpleasant condition where you can no longer lay down after you have eaten as "reflux" then takes place, the food and acid flowing back up into to the oesophagus.

Pressure on the intestines and bowels may prevent them from making their wave-like "peristaltic" movements and be a contributing factor for constipation or irritable bowel syndrome (I.B.S)

Breathing Problems

Allowing the chest to drop towards the pelvis also puts pressure on the diaphragm (the layer of muscle between the chest and the abdomen) Normally, at rest, the diaphragm is used for breathing by moving up and down and pushing/pulling air in and out of the lungs (at the same time this movement "massages" the abdominal organs which acts as a gentle stimulant to the digestive system). When it is compressed, it cannot move as freely so breathing has to take place by raising and lowering the rib cage. This requires much more effort so is less efficient and could lead to sensations of "shortage of breath", even when sitting down!

Circulation Problems

Slouching and putting increased pressure on the internal organs CAN raise your blood pressure (you can test this yourself with an easy to use modern electronic sphygmomanometer - relatively cheap these days - or ask your doctor to compare your blood pressure when you are slouching with when you are sitting with good posture). IF sitting badly DOES raise your general blood pressure, maybe you should also check the increase in blood pressure in your legs (again, if you cannot do this yourself, you could ask your GP to do this!) as if there is a significant increase when slouching, then on a long aeroplane flight, this could increase your risk of DVT (deep vein thrombosis).

Relief from back pain

How might I get immediate relief from the discomfort I get when sitting with bad posture?

Woman sitting at desk supported by Nada-Chair Back-up photo.

"Ergonomic" chairs offer lumbar support, but they can't force you to make proper use of it. You can slouch in an expensive office chair, but hope and believe you are sitting properly because you paid a lot of money for it!!

Solution - wear your chair!

The Nada-Chair is the chair that you wear. This slouch-busting sling lets you sit comfortably for hours with effortless good posture. "The Nada-Chair acts like an extra muscle that never tires" explains Arthur White, MD (PDF 1,271kb) in his letter to the Nada-Chair designer, Mr Victor Toso. "By using the knees to stabilize the pelvis, the back muscles are helped with their work. The pelvis becomes a stable pedestal on which the spine can effortlessly rest with natural curves restored."

The Nada-Chair promotes good posture by cradling the lower back and making it impossible for you to slouch. If you cannot slouch, your discs and ligaments are protected, your muscles don't need to overwork to protect your spine and your back feels relaxed and more comfortable. Why not give it a try?

It's time you had a Nada!

If you want your spine and discs to stay healthy for as long as possible please also read this next page.


How could wearing a Nada support re-train my back muscles?

Woman sitting using keyboard, supported by Nada-Chair Back-up photo.

Try this for yourself! Put your Nada support on and adjust it correctly. It immediately feels comfortable and stops you slouching. However, after a period of time (the amount of time varies from person to person) your knees and your back will become a little irritated by the pressure from wearing the belt. To reduce this irritation, you will sit up a little straighter to reduce the pressure on the belt. The moment that happens, you are using your own back muscles to sit "perfectly". Again, after a period of time, your back muscles will get tired, and you will relax back "into" the Nada (because you are wearing the Nada, you cannot collapse into your previously bad slouching position, so you are never going to put the strain on the discs and ligaments that you used to). Again, after a period of time, your back and knees will get a bit irritated, so then you will sit up a little straighter etc etc.

The beauty of this system is that you alternate between sitting with good posture, helped by the Nada, and sitting perfectly using your own muscles. Your "sitting" muscles will start to improve, as you are now using them correctly, and your back will become used to being in the correct position. So much so that when you have used a Nada for a few days/weeks and then sit without it, if you revert to your old slouching position you will realise very quickly that your back does NOT like it! Hopefully you will then do something about it, such as sit up properly? If your back has not yet gained enough strength for you to sustain correct sitting posture, go and get your NADA!

Should you experience any pain or discomfort when you put on your Nada, we recommend that you go and see your doctor or a registered back-pain specialist as the pain is unlikely to be caused by the Nada itself, and this suggests you may have an existing spinal "problem". If you know that you already have an existing spinal "problem", we recommend that you do not use this product without first consulting with your "back specialist".

If you want your spine and discs to stay healthy for as long as possible please also read this next page.


Quick Stretch

Sitting even with good posture for long periods of time, with or without your Nada, is not ideal for your back. Even though you may NOT now be stretching your ligaments or distorting your discs, you are still putting pressure on your discs that will, after years of prolonged sitting, eventually compress and thin them down, making them less flexible and hence more liable to damage. Having thinner discs also means that your spinal vertebrae move closer together and start rubbing together in a way that will cause arthritis, and also leaves less room for your "peripheral" nerves, which pass out from your spinal chord through the spaces between your vertebrae and this pressure on the nerves can eventually cause pain, numbness, tingling or pins and needles in the legs and feet.

So what can you do about it!

How the monkeys do it Maybe we should to?Common advice these days is to get up and move around every half-hour. But these days most of us never significantly stretch our spines. Even yoga and Pilates exercises do NOT significantly stretch your discs. We have (probably) evolved from monkeys or something very similar, and we have the in-built ability to swing from tree to tree!! We don't recommend you do that - it is a bit too dangerous! However, just hanging by both arms from a comfortable support is well within our abilities, and provides a VERY strong and NATURAL stretch for our shoulders, spine and "lumbar" and "lower thoracic" discs.

The best way to do this is to hang from a bar that you can easily reach from the floor. The easiest way to do this is to install a "hanging-bar" in a doorway at home or at work. (Get your boss to install one; it will pay for itself in absolutely no time as sedentary office workers will need less time off work with back ache if they use it regularly) Don't panic; we are not talking about chin-ups or anything very strenuous; just relaxed hanging for about 10-15 seconds at a time!

(Don't hang from a doorframe or picture rail; if it is not a comfortable handgrip you will not be able to relax and get the full benefit)

If you have not hung like this for years, if you are overweight or if you have weak or damaged shoulders, wrists or elbows, just hang for 5 seconds per day for the first few days to make sure you are not hurting any of these areas! Hang with your palms facing forwards. When you are comfortable with your hanging, we suggest you get up from your chair every 30-45 minutes and hang for around 15 seconds!! That's not asking too much is it?

Do NOT pick you legs off the floor as this will mean you are tensing your spinal and abdominal muscles and this will prevent your lower spine from getting the full benefit. Just let your feet and legs relax and rest on the floor. At first you will probably only feel the stretch in your shoulders, but as your shoulders relax more and more, you will feel the stretch reaching down to the base of your spine.

We recommend that you DO NOT actually hang anywhere where your feet are off the ground, as stretching your discs and then dropping down to the ground (which would suddenly re-compress your discs) could damage a disc that may have already been weakened by prolonged sitting and slouching. If you experience back pain when hanging or if you have an existing spinal problem, don't use this exercise without first consulting with your back-pain specialist.