Viewing entries tagged
sitting

How to set up your car seat

If you spend a lot of time in your car then this post is for you…and let’s face it, if you're reading this you most likely live in Melbourne, so there is a good chance you DO spend too large a portion of your life driving, sorry, I mean, in traffic.

If reading this whole post isn't really for you, then feel free to skip down to the end where I will summarise how to set yourself up in your care in a checklist.

Note how her head is sitting comfortably above her shoulders? Ideally shed have 2 hands on the wheel also…

Note how her head is sitting comfortably above her shoulders? Ideally shed have 2 hands on the wheel also…

What is the issue?

As a society, we appear to give a lot of attention to ergonomics for when we are setting up an office work station, or using a computer, but thats often where our attention to the issue ends.

We are guilty of it too!

If you follow this blog you will know that we have recently posted about how best to set up your computer or your laptop, we have talked about ways to avoid text neck when using your smart phone or tablet. We have even discussed how to sit and the importance of limiting how long we sit for, yet all of those are predominantly centred around screen time, or when you are in an office.

The reality is, the office, be it at work or at home is only a PART of how we spend every day. Important as good ergonomics are during these times, we need to remember that improved spinal health, being mindful of our posture and maintaining high levels of function are 24/7 activities.

We are the result of what we do the most.

To be more precise, our body will get better at whatever we ask it to do the most, so it is important to ask yourself regularly throughout the day:

“What am I asking my body to do right now?”

This is why we often tell our clients that the most important thing they can do for themselves throughout the work day is to get up out of their chair and move around.

One place where getting up and moving around is not really an option however is when we are in the car.

Kieran, I will not be getting a beaded car seat cover so don’t even mention it.

Fair point. I wouldn't want one either. I am far too car proud for that.

Most of my clients will probably already know that I am into cars and that I love driving.

I am fortunate enough that my commute is very short, so much so that I mostly get the opportunity to walk or ride my bike to the practice. I do however get to spend a lot of time in the car though, as I enjoy driving almost everywhere else and spend most of my weekends heading out of the city to go camping, hiking or traveling to visit family in Bendigo.

One thing I don’t like about driving though, is how easy it can be to make myself very sore if I haven't set the car up properly.

A poor driving position can lead to (among other things):

  • Low back pain,

  • headaches,

  • sore shoulders,

  • pins and needles in your legs or arms,

  • fatigue,

  • Sciatic pain and most dangerous of all,

  • an inability to control your car properly.

Setting your car up is easy

Fortunately we live in a world where other people have done most of the hard work for us and your car is no exception.

Car companies have employed a literal team of people to make your car so that it is able to get you to YOUR ideal driving position, however most of us rarely use all of the functions they have bent hundreds of hours developing.

It doesn’t matter whether you drive something fun and sporty, or purely as a taxi you use to ferry your children, the following suggestions should be able to apply to nearly every car you drive.

Step 1: Seat height and distance

When it comes to how high you sit in the car, too much of anything is a bad thing. Too high and you have to bend down to see out of the window clearly, too low and you will struggle to see everything you have to avoid.

You want to be a comfortable height to be able to see everything easily over the steering wheel without extra effort. Seems like a no brainer I know but you do wee some weird things out there.

Distance from the pedals is important too. You never want to be reaching for the pedals…obviously but you don't want to have your knees too bent either.

If you are too close, you have to actively position your feet for too long leading to hip issues. On top of this, if your knee is close to or is resting on the dash board, then your leg bones will have to act like an air bag to slow you down in an accident…which is less than ideal if you're the kind of person that enjoys having legs.

Ideally, the best distance from the seat to the pedals would mean that in a manual car, your knee should be *almost* straight but not quite when you press the clutch in all the way. About a 5 degree knee bend in that position should be it.

In an auto, the same rule applies for you to be able to leave your foot on the foot rest (look for it, you most likely have one to the left of the brake pedal) but if you don't have one, you should have that same 5 degree knee bend when your foot rests on the firewall (thats the carpet behind the pedals).

This should also mean that when you take your left hand off the steering wheel it should be able to rest comfortably on the gear stick without having to reach for it, allowing your shoulders to remain relaxed.

Step 2: Steering wheel position

Have the steering wheel at a distance where you can relax your hands onto the 10 and 2 positions on the wheel without leaning forward and having to round your shoulders, keeping a relaxed bend in your elbows.

This means you have the most control of the wheel without having to grip onto it, strain your shoulders or your low back to reach for it.

Another easy way to know if its in a good spot, is when you rest your wrists onto the top of the steering wheel, it should sit *just* at your wrists.

Move it to a height where your hands can sit at 10 and 2 roughly in front of your shoulders, you don't want to have to go reaching up or down to find the steering wheel.

Most cars now have an electric steering wheel movement, but if not, its easy to unclip the handles on the steering column and play around with its position, moving it up and down or forward and back. Take your time with its one, when you get it right, you’ll know.

Step 3: Head position

If you have done the other two right then this should already be set, but just make sure your head isn't having to lean forward too far and is relaxed over the top of your shoulders.

If it is leaning forward, readjust your steering wheel closer to you.

Watch out for car seats that push your head forward. Bad posture is so common that engineers in some car companies have started building their seats to have the head rests moving forward to meet where they assume people with poor postures heads will be.

This forces you into a bad position and over time will GIVE you forward head posture. Personally I have not been able to buy certain cars because of this, and I know it has meant Martin has had to choose a different brand when replacing one of his.

You also shouldn’t need to rest your head back on the head rest.

The name is deceptive, you should have active control of your head, it shouldn't have to be pushed back into the head rest. Its the name of a safety feature in a crash, not a suggested use.

Step 4: Lumbar support

If your car has inbuilt lumbar support, don't be afraid to use it. When you find the right spot for you, you will be amazed that you ever drove without it.

If need be, you can always buy a lumbar support pillow to use when you are driving for long periods or on longer road trips.

Step 5: Never drive with something in your back pocket.

Thats right men who keep a wallet in your back pocket when you're driving, I am talking to you. I don’t care how long you have done it for, it causes an unevenness under you that WILL eventually lead to back pain and even sciatica in some cases.

The same goes for mobile phones. They seem small but even on a short trip they make a difference to how you have to sit. I don’t care HOW short the drive is.

Again, it seems obvious but people do it.

Step 6: Take breaks regularly.

Especially if you are driving a distance. They don't only stop you from feeling fatigued, they allow your body to wake up as well, and they don’t even have to take long! Even a 2-5 minute walk can do the trick.

As promised, here is the checklist:

Step 1: Height and distance

Seat at a height where you can see everything without straining to have your eyes above the wheel or below the sun visors.

Sit at a distance where your foot can relax at the back of the foot well with your knee bent slightly to around 5 degrees.

Step 2: Steering wheel

Bring it close enough to have a slight bend in your elbows when your hands are at 10 and 2, you should be able to rest your wrists on the top of the wheel without reaching for it with your shoulders.

Step 3: Head position

Like sitting at a computer, above your shoulders, not poking forward at the steering wheel.

Step 4: Lumbar support

Play around with it until it feels good for extended periods. This might take some experimenting. If you need to, buy a support cushion.

Step 5: Nothing in your back pockets.

Step 6: Take breaks.

If you have any questions or concerns, would like to chat about how to set up your car please contact us at Align, we would love to help you.

However, if you're happy with your car set up but would like to chat about cars specifically, please feel free to talk to me about it…don’t bother talking about them with Martin…they aren't really his thing.

Kieran

How to set up your desk when you use a laptop in 4 steps

This is a post for people who frequently use a laptop to work on or for longer periods of time. It is especially good for people worried about or who suffer from tension headaches, neck or low back pain, high or sore shoulders, or other postural issues such as forward head posture.

In the video, Martin (using Kieran as the perfect ergonomics model) talks us through the correct ergonomics of how to set up our laptops as a workstation.

Please enjoy the quick video, for your convenience, the ergonomics demo has been transcribed below. 

This video will show you what you need to do to set up your desk when you are using a laptop.

Hi, this is Martin and Kieran from Align Chiropractic, we're here today to give you a quick video that will answer one of the most commonly asked questions that we get in the practice every day.

How should you have your desk set up so that you can look after your spine and your posture when you're spending time at your computer?

The first example we're going to do today is how to set it up for a laptop. Laptops are always a little bit more of a compromise than a desktop because you can't separate the screen but we’re going to go through how you can set it up so that your posture is in as close to the optimal position as possible. 

Step 1: Seat Height

The first point that we want to address is make sure, we can't see this but just take my word for it, Kieran's feet are flat on the floor. 

So we don't want crossed legs because it’s going to create twisting and torsion through our pelvis and lower back and create tension there. 

We want to make sure that the height of the chair, if you've got a gas lift chair, is up high enough so that your hip is either level with your knee so that we've got a straight line there, or you want the hips slightly higher than the knees.

What you don't want, because it's going to create a real curve in your back is knees higher than hips. 

So first point; set up the gas lift so that you're at that height. 

Step 2: Keyboard and arm position

we also want to have when we've got a hand on the keyboard there we want to make sure that we have pretty close to a 90 degree angle here. 

The main thing you don't want to have is to have the keyboard a lot lower, so this is particularly important for shorter people. 

If you have the chair too low then you're in a position where you start having to bunch up and create a lot of tension in your shoulders to be able to keep your hands on the keyboard. 

We want the set up so that we have hands easily on the keyboard with elbows roughly at about that 90 degrees or slightly more open. 

So we want to move our chair in or out so that with our hands comfortably on the keys we've got our hip and shoulder lined up because what we're really wanting to do here is have the big weight of the chest balanced over our hip.

What we don't want to be is so far back that we start to do this kind of thing, where there's a lot more tension on both the lower back and shoulders. Similarly, we don't want to be leaning all the way forward because it's going to tire out our back. 

Step 3: How do you manage the screen position?

So, a nice comfortable position of the chair, then this is the bit where we always have the little bit of a compromise with the laptop where we want to get your head balanced over your shoulder, but if you're looking down at a screen on a laptop, then that's always going to be a little bit tricky. 

The idea with the laptop is, make sure that you realise that you're always going to have a little bit of your head posture forward rather than balance the weight of your head over your shoulder so it’s really important to take micro breaks. 

Step 4: Micro Breaks

There are programs you can get that will remind you every 20-25 minutes to just stop for a minute, relax your arms way aside have a little micro break, turn your head all the way to the left, all the way around to the right, just drop your shoulders up and down a little bit and then you can get back to work.

So there it is, a couple of key points that you can use to set up your desk or your laptop in the optimal position, thanks.

 

What is the best way to sit?

"How should I be sitting?"

We often get asked this by our clients and on the surface it sounds like a pretty simple and straight forward question but when you think about it, its a much broader subject than it first appears. 

If you subscribe to the theory that the researchers at QI are correct about pretty much everything (and let's face it, who doesn't?) then this video will explain to you a little about the *ideal* way to sit, but what do they mean by the BEST way to sit?

For instance, it could be argued that what you are sitting FOR might actually dictate how you could best attempt to sit. Then again, there are some people who argue that we shouldn't be sitting for more than just short periods at all! 

In this post I wanted to discuss a few different types of sitting and when you might want to use them.

But Kieran, what do you mean by different types of sitting?

I'm glad you asked! there are a few different ways in which we position our bodies when we sit and each has its own set of pros and cons. 

In the video above, they make reference to sitting with an angle between your low back and your hips of roughly 30 degrees. They don't specify this in the video but sitting with an angle like that refers to research for the best sitting position to ease pressure on your lower lumbar vertebrae and disks, hopefully reducing the risk of low back pain or injury including disk bulges. 

When I was studying biomechanics as part of my Bachelor of Applied Science (Chiropractic) at RMIT, (back then, the course was an undergraduate degree and a Masters by course work instead of the 5 year Bachelor degree Chiropractors currently undertake...also Youtube was only 1 year old...thats not relevant to that last point other than it gives you an indication of how old I must be) we learned that the ideal angle to sit was indeed NOT sitting up straight but between 100-110 degrees. Definitely within the ball park of what this episode of QI suggests.

So why are we always trying to sit up straight?

It seems strange doesn't it that despite scientific evidence to the contrary, that we should still be obsessed with sitting up straight. 

I can't find any rational reasoning for this but I posit that it's due to our societal awareness of posture in reference to our shoulders and head forward positions, rather than any awareness of our spinal health at large. 

Well then...which is it? Posture or low back health?

To be completely honest, I do not believe that there is one answer to this question. 

Firstly, if you know you have, or at risk of a low back injury, then it is reasonable for you to, as much as possible while sitting, attempt to have an appropriate angle of between 10 and 30 degrees beyond sitting up straight. I would also add, if you have or believe you are at risk of a low back injury, please contact us at Align Chiropractic to see what ELSE you can do to get on track beyond remembering how to sit. 

Secondly, if you don't have a specific reason or concern in reference to your low back, then as stated earlier, perhaps it is best to remember the context in which you find yourself sitting. 

If you are going to be at a computer for most of the day, then a focus on correct sitting posture. 

A couple of quick reminders are:

  • Key board - Positioned more directly in front of you, so you aren't reaching for it or turning your     wrists to get the correct angle.
  • Screen - Directly in front of you,at a height where your eyes are aimed directly in the middle just about the centre of the screen.
  • Chair - Adjusted to a height where your feet can easily touch the floor with your hips at or just past 90 degrees to your torso.
  • Mouse - Just to the side of the keyboard, easy to reach in a way that keeps your arm bent, not reaching for it.
  • Alignment - Sitting up straight, don't slouch and don't let your head and shoulders slump forward. 

Always remember to keep what you need to use IN FRONT OF YOU in an easy position to use.

Computers and equipment was designed to fit US, not the other way around!

Your other best line of defence is to try utilise a standing desk for at least some part of the day!

However, the above video raises an interesting point, If sitting more casually, i.e. watching a movie etc, then sitting up straight as if you are using a computer doesn't really feel like it makes much sense. Lets face it, it doesn't matter who you are, no one can sit up straight for extended periods of time. 

It makes sense to do it while working, where we can get up from the desk to stretch, get water or to stop our body from fatiguing, but if you're planning to sit and enjoy Casino Royal, re watch the Back to the future trilogy or binge The Sinner, then you can hardly annoy everyone you're watching with and interrupt the show with incessant stretching. 

This is where finding that 10 to 30 degree angle for your low back really comes to the fore.

Similarly while driving, I do not expect you to stop every 20-40 minutes on your daily commute for a walk, so keep that position in mind when you set up your car seat (I will post about correct driving position in the near future, but as a general rule, give yourself that slight angle, position the steering wheel so you aren't leaning forward to reach for it and make sure your head isn't being pushed forward by the headrest).

Another question we get asked frequently is should you sit on a gym ball instead? 

My answer is always the same...if your living room or office aesthetics suit the presence of a gym ball as a permanent piece of furniture, then perhaps posture and sitting is NOT the biggest issue you are currently experiencing. 

More seriously though, in my experience, sitting on a gym ball doesn't provide you with a better sitting technique for an extended period. Like anything, our body will fatigue if we ask it to hold a more rigid position for a long time and eventually we all end up slumping. Personally, I believe that a gym ball can actually help you to slump your shoulders forward as it offers you no form of support to relax into a better position. 

If you DO insist on sitting long term on gym ball, always be mindful of when your head slumps forward and your low back has started to curve in the opposite direction. 

Yep, just like any product sold on late night infomercials, the sad reality is, sitting on a gym ball will NOT automatically give you abs. 

The same can be said of ergonomic chairs or those kneeling 'chairs', not only are they usually more of an eyesore than you would hope them to be, they are really about trying to make the most of a crummy situation. They will try place you in a better posture but without adjusting your position, mindfulness of your body and remembering to get up and move frequently, your body will always try to reduce energy expenditure and slack off as soon as you aren't looking. 

So what SHOULD I be sitting on?

For a hint at the type of chairs we at Align DO actually like people to sit in, look at the furniture in our practice. 

The Eames chairs we have in the practice weren't just chosen for how beautiful they are, or how well they stand up to being sat on by hundreds of people, they also allow you to be comfortable in a relatively good position for a reasonable period of time. 

At the end of the day, there really is no substitute for body awareness. 

Listen to your body. Stand up when you need to stand up, move when you have to move, and re-position yourself when your body tells you it needs re-positioning. 

To discuss the best ways to combat bad posture, exercises to improve your ability to sit better, or discuss your concerns about your posture, contact us at Align on (03) 9696 1057, or bring it up during your next visit so that we can discuss your issues specifically and tailor an approach to your and your needs.