There are many studies now that show sitting can have a negative impact on our health. Some quotes are even saying “sitting is the new smoking”
Not only can sitting affect our life span but it can also contribute to low back, pelvis and lower limb pain. The human body is quite an amazing mechanical operating system and really tries to help us through our day by adapting to all the positions and movements we subject it to.
How we stand, how we sit, how we move in our bodies over time, if not optimal, will contribute to changes in muscle tension and length leading to changes in muscle function. This can lead to increased loading and compression through the spine and pelvis in sitting.
If we look at the structure of the pelvis:
It is made up of 3 large bones. Two inominate and the sacrum.
The two inominate bones join directly in the front through a flexible disc structure. This area is called the pubis symphysis. At the back of the pelvis the two inominates join onto the sacrum creating the right and left sacroiliac (SI) joints.
There are 35 muscles that attach directly onto the pelvis.
The function of the pelvis is to transfer the load and coordinate the movements between the trunk and the lower extremities. Mobility and stability of any joint is dependent on the interaction of muscle function, ligaments, fascia and nerves that act on the joint. In healthy movement the sacrum moves relative to the inominates. In standing and sitting the ideal position of the sacrum, inominates and lumbar spine is referred to as Neutral Spine. This is the position where muscles that act on the pelvis can have optimal contribution to stability and mobility, but only when there is no underlying dysfunction.
Sitting for many hours, especially in front of a computer, can lead to a slouched, slumped posture. Sitting slouched requires less muscle activation – it feels easier -but it relies more on the ligaments holding the bones together. Slumped sitting shifts the weight of the body from directly over the large bones of the pelvis to slightly behind them. This places both the muscles and the ligaments in that area under great load and can over stretch these structures.
The simple act of sitting up on your pelvis so it comes into neutral alleviates a lot of the sitting aches and pains that we can experience in our day.
Try this Pilates exercise to start teaching your body its Neutral Spine.
- Lying on your back, knees bent and feet in line with your sit bones.
- Place the heel of your hands on the bones at the front of the pelvis and the fingers reach down to the pubic symphysis.
- First try tilting the pelvis so the heels of the hands come higher than the fingers then rock the pelvis the other way so the fingers are now higher than the heel of your hands – this takes some practice as most bodies have lost connection with this area and have become stiff. Your spine and pelvis will be in neutral when the front of the hip bones and the pubic symphysis are in the same plane i.e. Parallel to the floor. This position maintains the normal curve of your lower back and is stable and optimal shock absorbing position for your lumbopelvic region.
With practice you can start finding Neutral spine in standing as well. Keep practicing, and it will become more and more habitual. Your body will thank you!