Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
6 Oct

You Might Want to Sit Down for This

Picture1 10Or maybe you don’t. It turns out that sitting in a chair – that time honored tradition we commonly associate with rest, relaxation, and recuperation (don’t forget mind-numbing work, too!) – is actually bad for us. At least, the way we approach sitting is health harmful. The occasional dalliance with a straight-backed office chair probably isn’t a problem, but when we spend most of our waking life sitting (or, even worse, slumping over) in a chair, we invite disaster. Such sedentarism is a real problem, and a recent one. Grok certainly wasn’t bound to a desk. He may have had more off time than we do (if modern hunter-gatherers are any indication), but he didn’t spend it subjecting his body to extended bouts of unnatural contortions. And there’s the other big difference: the way we sit is completely unnatural. Instead of sprawling out, hands behind our heads, legs outstretched, we moderns “relax” in a chair – a piece of furniture with which we have relatively new relations.

From “You Don’t Know Squat” we already know that the modern toilet has only been in widespread use for a couple centuries, and that squatting to eliminate is probably healthier than the sit/strain method, but did you know that chairs with backs enjoy a similar history? Until the 16th century, chairs were reserved primarily for the gilded classes. Kings, noblemen, and statesmen used them to conduct business and hold court, while your average serf or peon was relegated to sitting on (backless) stools, chests, or even the ground. Early chairs were ornate, exquisite things made from expensive materials like ivory, ebony, bronze, and acacia wood, and festooned with beautiful carvings and designs; there weren’t any latter-day Ikea-equivalents pumping out mock kings’ thrones made of particle board. Handcrafted works of art versus utilitarian products mass-produced in China. It almost sounds like chairs are the refined grains of the furniture world.

Or, perhaps more fittingly, chairs are like shoes. They are modern “conveniences” that force our anatomy into unnatural positions while purporting to correct flaws intrinsic to our bodies. It’s not enough to say that we’re merely imperfect (because we are); we also possess a fatal flaw that only manmade artifice can fix. But what chairs actually do is make sitting in a harmful, slumped-over position for a dangerously long period of time possible. We bypass our built-in feedback system (you know – pain, fatigue, a sore back) that would usually direct us to correct our posture (or even, maybe, stand up and move around) and we’re able to sit relatively pain-free for hours on end – but the damage is being done. We’re getting progressively weaker and more reliant on the backing of the chair, and when we’re in a sitting situation without added back support, we can’t handle it. Instead of sitting erect, shoulders back, back strong and straight, head held high, we just slump over and use the curvature of our spine to support our bodies. If you don’t believe me, start watching for it. Look around at your colleagues, family, and friends, and see how they sit. Most people slump. Can you imagine the average modern twelve year old, weaned on couches and cheap school seating, slumping over in the saddle as he tries to ride down game on his first hunting trip with the warriors of the tribe? It simply wouldn’t work.

A weak back, one might argue, can be mitigated by proper exercises. Deadlifts and squats (performed correctly and with great form, of course) will strengthen your “core” and could even make up for all the sitting (personally, I wouldn’t risk it – and it seems kinda counterproductive, like eating a bunch of fish oil just so you can “safely” consume tons of Omega 6s), but are there any other health disadvantages to leading a sedentary, chair-ridden lifestyle? Of course there are.

There’s the obesity that accompanies sloth. Time spent sitting is invariably time spent not moving. While there is the occasional IT guy who bikes to work, hits the gym on his lunch break, and gets plenty of exercise when he’s not sitting in front of a computer, one Australian study (PDF) concluded that office workers “who spend high amounts of time sitting at work tend to spend high amounts of time sitting on non work days.” In other words, it may be that sedentary employees really do take their work home with them. That same study also found that those same workers had a flawed perception of their own activity levels. The most sedentary ones thought they were getting way more exercise than they actually were. As many of you probably know, a false sense of progress can be highly detrimental to one’s actual progress.

How do you feel about blood clots in your legs? A New Zealand (boy, they’re really on top of things in that part of the world, huh?) study found that workers who spent an inordinate amount of time sitting at their desks were at a higher risk of developing deep vein thombrosis (DVT). Workers who used computers while sitting were at an even high risk.

Metabolic syndrome, our favorite catchall for most of what ails the average insulin-resistant, obese, and near-diabetic, may also be exacerbated by “too little exercise and too much sitting.” Epidemiological data suggesting that “excessive sitting” is a health hazard prompted researchers to suggest amending current health guidelines, while one scientist even compared the deleterious impact of sitting to smoking regularly. When doctors compare anything to smoking, you know they mean business (of course, that same doctor’d probably include saturated fat among the condemned, but no one’s perfect).

If all that isn’t enough to convince you, perhaps a healthy dose of all cause mortality will. The study, conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine, examined whether time spent sitting was an independent indicator of all cause mortality. They factored in leisure time, alcohol and tobacco consumption, and even physical activity (the lack thereof which is a common explanation of the poor health ramifications of too much sitting), but sitting time emerged as a factor – “independent of leisure time physical activity.” Physical activity certainly helps reduce mortality rates, but it might not be enough, and the downsides of sitting can’t completely be explained away by a reduction in exercise.

So, what can we do about it? In a world of cheap and plentiful chairs, where social protocol and workplace decorum usually demand we plop down for hours at a time, how can the dedicated Primal Blueprinter maintain postural health and strength and avoid the pitfalls of too much sitting?

Ideally, we would avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time – or at all. That’s not very realistic, of course, for obvious reasons. We aren’t all Ernest Hemingway, who famously said, “writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up.” (Hemingway’s method of standing to type is actually really nice if you can manage it; my editor, Aaron, has been doing so the past few weeks after injuring his back, and he may never go back to chairs if he can help it.) If your boss is the type to let you nap and wear Vibrams to work, you might be able to work the “no-chair” angle, but I wouldn’t count on it.

If standing isn’t an option, trying using a stool to sit. Humans used stools (also chests, or anything backless) for centuries before chairs became common, so we can definitely manage without the support. The advantage of the stool is that you aren’t tempted to use the backing; in fact, you’re almost forced to maintain a straight, strong back by virtue of the backing’s absence. Sit up straight and tall. You’ll probably have to consciously maintain the arch in your back (like you’re deadlifting) at first, but in time your muscles will strengthen and you’ll grow accustomed to the position. Oh, if you don’t mind looking ridiculous, I suppose you could use a big yoga/balance ball as a seat.

Constantly punctuating your day with bouts of activity is a decent way to reduce the damage. Eight hours of sitting broken up into digestible chunks and interspersed with random walks and stretches every fifteen minutes is always going to be better than eight hours of uninterrupted sitting. You could take a walk for your lunch break, or even find time to hit the gym. Just get up, get moving, and get your blood flowing, and do it as often as you can (while still getting your work done, of course).

This may belong strictly in the “flights of fancy” category, but a treadmill desk would certainly help you avoid sitting. Plus, you could switch it off and simply stand and work if you ever got tired of walking.

If you absolutely can’t leave your chair for the entire day, you’ll need to put more emphasis on getting regular exercise outside of work. Eating Primally should be helping you avoid sugar crashes and carb comas, so mustering enough energy for a session shouldn’t be a problem. The reason we formally “workout” is because our lives are so structured; Grok didn’t decide to exercise. His life just naturally required it. In a way, both you and Grok need to exercise to survive – only for slightly different reasons.

To sum things up, staying on your feet or lounging instead of sitting in a chair are the most desirable ways to deal with the chair problem. Modern conveniences, though, have basically become modern requirements, and we’re going to have to deal with sitting in chairs from time to time. When you are forced into sitting, maintain a strong torso. Keep your shoulders back, your chest up, and your lower back tight and slightly arched. Get up every fifteen minutes or so for a brisk walk. Explore alternative seating arrangements, like yoga balls or backless stools that force you to exercise proper postural positioning. Think of the chair as a crutch – use when needed, but don’t rely on it too much or you’ll never be able to graduate.

Above all, don’t get hung up on the fact that you sit in a chair everyday. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It’s not going to kill you as long as you take the necessary steps to minimize the negative impact of sitting.

And now for some questions: How many hours a day do you spend sitting in a chair? What type of chair do you use? How would you rate your posture? Has anyone successfully negotiated a standing working environment at their office job? If so, share your experience. Let me know your thoughts in the comment board. Thanks, everyone!

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. Hey Mark, great post!

    I just wanted to ask if arching your back inwards is really the best way to sit. Obviousley there are ill effects from arching your back outwards, but can you see negatives of having your back arched inwards for a lengthy period of time?

    Many thanks from Engalnd!

    -Kane

    Kane wrote on October 6th, 2009
  2. I’m bound to a desk for much of the day, but alternate between sitting, standing, and even squatting. I do get some funny looks if someone comes into my office while I’m squatted behind my desk working. I just tell them that I get tired of sitting.

    Dave, RN wrote on October 6th, 2009
  3. Ever since I moved back home from college, I’ve been using a drum throne as my desk instead of a chair (small living spaces and all…) and find it preferable. I’ve even been drafting in my head plans to build my own computer/recording desk to use standing.

    I think if we did most of our computer work standing, we might be more productive. We wouldn’t be wasting our valuable free time doing nothing. The comforts of sitting in a nice chair (semi-recumbant, no need to use most muscles, la-z-boy style) certainly doesn’t encourage us to get up! haha

    Gary-A wrote on October 6th, 2009
  4. With a 3 year old to chase I barely ever sit. But, before that I was an office bound person who sat most of the say. I hated it!

    I begged for a standing work station and know a few people who negotiated one using the key words “ergonomics”, “safety” “OSHA” and addressed their workplace safety officer.

    Even though I am now home all day being mom, I feel so lucky because it frees me to just stand or walk around at will. Nice!

    I sit for meals, though, using a stool.

    Hiit Mama wrote on October 6th, 2009
  5. What timing – I just swapped out my office chair for a stability ball this morning. Bouncy bouncy!

    Heather wrote on October 6th, 2009
  6. Thirty years of a computer job have left me with chronic neck pain. I’ve been in physio for over a year, working on postural exercises. The biggest problem is avoiding a chin-forward posture. It is important to keep the head above the spine. I see a lot of coworkers fall into this bad habit.

    Half the time I sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair. This keeps the position dynamic, and makes it difficult to slouch, and almost impossible to cross your legs (a very bad habit as well).

    Gary Katch wrote on October 6th, 2009
  7. I am at a desk job as well. I notice that as I become more active outside of work the less time I am able to sit at my desk at a time.

    If I am active outside of work I find that I get a closed in feeling and I need to get up from my desk just to keep my sanity.

    The opposite is true. The less active I am the longer I can sit without the need to get up and around.

    chima_p wrote on October 6th, 2009
    • I agree totally with that.. I work 12 hr shifts at a hospital watching heart monitors so I can not leave my desk unless someone can cover my position for me. So if I’m lazy outside of work I can sit for long periods of time but since i have begun to get more active outside of work I have to get up and stand for a few minutes every once in a while. They also don’t look kindly on the exercise ball idea and we can’t modify to standing desks, so I’ve gotten to where I will stand at least, if not more than 10 minutes an hour which helps a little.

      Moirai wrote on March 13th, 2013
  8. We’re moving to a new office and I’m seriously considering a standing workstation for at least part of the day. I’ll have to look into that. My dad had back problems for years and finally went to a standing desk with a bar stool for when he needed a rest. It worked wonders.

    A great exercise I use in my warmup routines to counter the hunchback posture is the scapular wall slide. Eric Cressey has been a great influence on me to be conscious of posture and its effects on health and performance:
    http://ericcressey.com/exercise-of-the-week-scapular-wall-slides

    Great blog by the way! Thoughtful and well-researched…

    Mike wrote on October 6th, 2009
  9. What I do, and it works well: I sit on the middle part of the chair, without my back touching the back part of the chair. So it is like I am sitting on a stool!

    frank wrote on October 6th, 2009
    • I do something similar. I sit at the edge of the chair with my legs stretched out in front of me (I guess this only works because I’m not very tall) but the position ends up being something similar to leaning against a short. It’s comfortable for me.

      Tina wrote on October 6th, 2009
      • Wall. leaning against a short wall.

        Tina wrote on October 6th, 2009
  10. Since you mention “squatting to eliminate”, I’d like to say that I haven’t *sat* on a toilet for years; I use something called Nature’s Platform that allows for “eliminating” the way nature intended. You can check it out at naturesplatform.com. It’s great, and I’d never go back to sitting on the toilet. An additional benefit I get from using the Nature’s Platform, is that it keeps me limber and flexible in the hips. At 66 years of age, I can drop into a full squat (butt to heels) anytime, and find it comfortable to do so. In fact, squatting like that for brief periods throughout the day is an excellent way to help counter the negative effects of sitting in chairs. I learned that from the book “3 Minutes to a Pain-Free Life” by Joseph Weisberg.

    Ronn wrote on October 6th, 2009
  11. I’m a webdesigner, so I sit about 8 hours a day, just for work. :( I do take breaks, though, and stretch/walk/etc. (Four mornings a week I CrossFit, btw)

    Last year I injured my back/hamstring, and couldn’t sit for about four months without extreme pain. I put crates on my desk and elevated my computer, creating a standing desk.

    In some ways, it was great; I didn’t waste time, that’s for sure! No more goofing off, web browsing for fun – I did only what I had to, and then I was off (usually to go lie down and rest/stretch).

    Unfortunately, it also meant I was standing in one place for hours… my feet killed, and I even lost feeling in my left heel (it was my right leg I injured) for months, even after I was sitting down again.

    Best of all worlds, I think—if you have to be at a desk for work—would be one of those desks that you can move up and down, so you could go back and forth. (Something like this: http://www.thehumansolution.com/wosiadhecode.html ; too bad those are $2000…)

    Adam Kayce wrote on October 6th, 2009
    • Sit or Stand workstations are becoming more and more popular for these very reasons. We need to lubricate our joints with motion! However, standing all day as you have experienced personally is not the answer either. Please check out another alternative to the Human Solution product at http://www.ergotron.com/Products/Workstations/tabid/562/language/en-US/default.aspx

      Best of luck for a productive career with no pain!

      Christine wrote on October 6th, 2009
    • I recently lightly tweaked my back (mostly cranky muscles from trying to do max deadlifts too soon after a back killing crossfit workout). I found all sorts of sitting to be terrible. If I sat in my car or a straight backed chair for more than about 5 minutes getting back up was painful and I’d be unable to stand straight for a minute or so. The one place I was ok though was where I sit all day – my office. I tried all sorts of chairs in years past but for the last eight years have just been sitting on a ball. It forces correct posture and lets me move around on it ever so slightly. Not nearly as good for my back as stretching or exercise but certainly didn’t seem to be the huge negative of a normal chair.

      Shannon Holland wrote on October 20th, 2009
  12. I’ve used stability balls as desk chairs at home and at work for over a year now.

    I also fidget a lot, which serves to counteract our glacial conference rooms.

    MightyMite wrote on October 6th, 2009
  13. I have a desk job and I sit 9-10 hours a day on a chair. I know my posture is not right, but this post and the above comments are spurring me to do something about it. I like the idea of using a stability ball, but I need to find a really big one (I’m 5’0) to make sure my hands are at desk-level.

    maba wrote on October 6th, 2009
  14. I hate chairs. I will opt for the floor every time! When I do have to sit, I find crossing my legs (indian style) is the most comfortable. My back is forced straight and my legs aren’t dangling or held in a weird un natural position!

    When resting (I’m a tandem nursing mama, so immobility is often an issue) we prefer to lay down, so we have a couch that we leave folded flat all the time, with plenty of pillows! Might look funny, but very comfy. I have a feeling that Grok’s mate would have done a lot of laying and squatting and sitting with her nurslings, when not chasing them around! lol

    lil_earthmomma wrote on October 6th, 2009
  15. I’m an IT Developer and I’m sitting at my desk as I read this article. :(

    I walk to work. Take a small walk with the cohorts in the morning. Walk back home for lunch. Walk back to work after lunch. 15-30 minute walk in the afternoon, and then a walk back home. Plus walking to the water cooler ALL the time and to the printer when necessary. Workout at least 3 times a day. I might have been known to do a round of ladder pushups in my cubicle now and then too :P

    About two years ago we decided to go without a car and that was the best decision ever. We’re one of those families that you see walking/biking everywhere we need to go. Unfortunately there aren’t enough of those families around. People around here only seem to walk when it’s nice out, and it’s such a small town that you really don’t need to have a vehicle to meet all your daily needs.

    I’ll now be looking for a stool that I can utilize at work.

    Lovestoclimb wrote on October 6th, 2009
  16. I’ve been lucky that over the past decade or so I’ve been able to intersperse active jobs (retail, carpentry, on-site computer work so I was mobile) with bouts of “chained to the desk” computer jobs. At my last job of the latter sort, I was lucky to have a wireless headset so on longer support calls I could pace up and down the aisle, this tended to irk the guys in the next workspace…but then again I was on the phone so I couldn’t hear them!
    Now I’m undergoing a complete life makeover, my mornings are spent in language lessons and afternoons are spent wandering my new home, so I’m getting outside daily, walking everywhere, learning new things daily, and overall loving the changes that just keep coming!

    Jesse wrote on October 6th, 2009
  17. Check out Seth Robert’s blog. He does a lot of self-experimentation, and is author of the Shangri-Li Diet. In particular, he wrote about how standing, instead of sitting, throughout the day helped him sleep better. OK so he actually practiced standing on one foot… but the idea of a standing office desk is not too far-fetched!

    http://www.blog.sethroberts.net/category/why-did-i-sleep-so-well-directory/

    eero wrote on October 6th, 2009
  18. I built my own standing desk, much happier!!

    Project: Standing Desk

    http://www.kabam.com/?p=2751

    tbohen wrote on October 6th, 2009
    • That’s a sweet ride, Tim. May have to build one myself.

      Mark Sisson wrote on October 6th, 2009
      • I have a handy hack for a standing desk, I call it ‘the bookshelf method’ ;)

        Ronan wrote on January 3rd, 2012
  19. if grains are a NO, NO, what about their sprouts? Are sprouts a green? I eat sprouted bread. Grain or green> There is no flour in it.

    Many thanks,

    Sheldon Stoff

    sheldon stoff wrote on October 6th, 2009
  20. Great point and definitely true. When I started work out of college I noticed the biggest change for me was having to sit down and still for such long periods during the day. Add on a 45 min commute and suddenly you’ve got a tremendous obstacle to basic fitness and wellness in my life which I’ve battled since.

    CT Olson wrote on October 6th, 2009
  21. I find that bringing a 55cm (or 65cm) stability ball in to work is the best option for me. It means I sit up straight, I can bounce, around on it to keep blow flowing, I can roll around on it to stretch out, and I can even do some light exercises from time to time.

    I also bike to and from work and exercise before going to work in the morning.

    Alex wrote on October 6th, 2009
  22. So what about meals?

    Should we eat standing up or should we sprawl out on the floor, legs outstretched, for our meals?

    We’ve been told that we shouldn’t eat standing up but I’ve never heard anything against eating sprawled out on the floor. It is more primal after all.

    But I’d be crowded out by my dogs. Not sure that’d make eating much fun.

    If sitting is a problem, then eating meals is also a problem …..

    mcoz-09 wrote on October 6th, 2009
    • Maybe the Romans had it right with their couches that allowed them to recline while eating…

      My classes last 3-5 hours straight, but I try to stand up when I get the chance. When I’m doing art at my studio, I alternate between standing and sitting. My laptop lets me sprawl out on my back when I’m on the computer. Thankfully my job requires me to be on my feet at all times.

      Kryz wrote on October 6th, 2009
  23. This post makes me wish this stool/hair/thingy (http://www.likecool.com/Headstand–Seating–Home.html) weren’t so (probably) expensive. Playing with your sear sounds like fun! :-)

    Katie wrote on October 6th, 2009
  24. I’ve been doing the standing thing for a while now.

    http://freetheanimal.com/2008/09/life-tweak-57.html

    I do have a stool as well, so it’s maybe 50/50 for me.

    Richard Nikoley wrote on October 6th, 2009
  25. Great article!

    This is very much the philosophy or ergonomic pioneer Peter Opsvik. Check out his interview on the Varier website http://www.varierusa.com Alot of these same themes are expressed there !

    Varier’s entire collection of chairs, called “Human Instruments” are based on Movement while sitting, and Opsvik also concurs that sitting is not best….refreshing candor from a designer of chairs.

    Ed wrote on October 6th, 2009
  26. I am a classical musician, so I spend plenty of time sitting in rehearsals, and obviously standing is not an option! Fortunately, bad posture is not an option, either. I sit right on the edge of the chair so my legs aren’t even touching the bottom. Otherwise, I feel like my legs get in the way!

    Deanna wrote on October 6th, 2009
  27. Mark,

    I once read that one way to reduce the damage done by sitting in a chair is to put a paper towel roll behind your back.

    What do you think about that?

    -Rafi

    Rafi Bar-Lev at Passionate Fitness wrote on October 6th, 2009
    • Rafi, it’s a start. In other words it will “reduce” the damage, but I know when I have tried it, I squirm too much and the towel or pillow winds up in the wrong place. Better to train the arch without support (kinda like going barefoot rather than wearing arch supports) as long as you maintain posture. OTOH, I do get up and move a LOT all day long.

      Mark Sisson wrote on October 6th, 2009
  28. Being a doctor of chiropractic, and thus from all the research and studies, sitting is one of the major causes of the infamous lumbar disc bulge. 33% of the population will have an asymptomatic disc bulge in their lumbar spines, and it has been linked to too much sitting. The best chairs that I recommend to patients as they get better are straight backed flat bench chairs, none of that fancy stuff. Those supposedly awesome lumbar chairs and swiss balls? They are even worst, putting undue pressure on the sacrum and coccyx, which is where most of the trouble comes from, not the curve (curve changes are only a symptom). Tip: try sitting on a 2″ folded up towel at the back part of the chair, creating a slightly downward angulating effect if you can’t get a flat chair, it helps tremendously, especially on long travels. And see a doctor of chiropractic of course :)

    Michael wrote on October 6th, 2009
    • Sources? And I would counterargue that going to a chiropractor is a waste of time and money.

      The main danger of chiropractic is that most chiropractors are not trained in proper diagnosis and may delay referring you to a real doctor, even for life-threatening conditions.

      Another danger is that chiropractors have a pseudoscientific belief system and often recommend dangerous, expensive, or bizarre treatments that are completely worthless.

      n reality, you are just cracking the joints of a patient’s back and your treatment can have no effect on health (other than maybe easing some minor back pain). There is no evidence that getting joints cracked regularly is good — it just costs the patient extra money and may even cause ligament laxity.

      Many modern chiros will tell you that they don’t treat subluxations and that they are evidence based. Don’t fall for this one. If chiropractic was truly “evidence based”, it wouldn’t even need to exist as a profession since physical therapists and physicians can crack joints for back pain.

      Some chiropractors claim they can help all kinds of things which they have no business treating. Some claim they can treat diabetes, ADD, hormone problems, depression, even cancer… just by cracking someone’s joints.

      Turtle wrote on October 6th, 2009
      • Ohh, touched a nerve here – pardon the chiro pun.

        I dont “treat diabetes, ADD, hormone problems, depression, even cancer…”, I merely know the connection between a properly functioning spine and nervous system and the metabolic processes that underlie these disorders.

        “Another danger is that chiropractors have a pseudoscientific belief system and often recommend dangerous, expensive, or bizarre treatments that are completely worthless.” Anytime western medicine wants to compare body counts or costs of care, Im up for it.

        “If chiropractic was truly “evidence based”, it wouldn’t even need to exist as a profession since physical therapists and physicians can crack joints for back pain.” I dont crack backs for pain relief. There is lots of evidence that chiropractic can restore joint function, decrease cortisol and improve quality of life.

        Dr Steve wrote on October 7th, 2009
        • Here’s the thing I don’t get – why are people so down on chiropractors? If someone’s telling me chiropractics is going to cure cancer, yeah, I’m going to be a little skeptical, but my chiropractor is the main reason I can even WALK these days. About seven years ago my pelvis slipped out in a big way. Hurt to stand, lie down, twist, walk… just rolling over was a HUGE effort. After months of my regular doctor (who was a very good doc in all other respects) telling me that they’d just have to put me on serious pain medication (which I steadfastly refused right up until the end) I was at my wit’s end. I ended up TAKING the pain medication and learned the hard way that I’m violently allergic to codeine. I had to be hospitalized for it.

          While I was there my boyfriend caught a ride with his boss and his boss’s brother to the hospital. Turns out the brother was a chiropractor. He listened to my problem in the car and offered to look at me as soon as I was out of the hospital. I was discharged the next day, my bf drove me to the brother’s office, and ten minutes later I could walk again… pain free.

          Even today my pelvis slips out of place every couple of weeks when I work especially hard or lift something especially heavy. I’m working on developing a primal plan but I have to take it slow since I’m pregnant. With all the relaxin in my system my chiropractor has been invaluable to keeping me functioning.

          Very VERY long story short – chiropractors might not be able to cure cancer but they’re very good at what they do. So try not to knock ‘em, please. I’d probably be hopped up on painkillers right now otherwise.

          Katie wrote on October 7th, 2009
        • Effectiveness of Chiropractic Treatment
          Opinions differ as to the efficacy of chiropractic treatment. Many controlled clinical studies of spinal manipulation are available, but their results disagree and they are typically of low quality. Health claims made by chiropractors about using manipulation for pediatric health conditions are supported by only low levels of scientific evidence that do not demonstrate clinically relevant benefits. A 2008 critical review found that with the possible exception of back pain, chiropractic SM (spinal manipulation) has not been shown to be effective for any medical condition, and suggested that many guidelines recommend chiropractic care for low back pain because no therapy has been shown to make a real difference.

          Btw, there is a wide range of ways to measure treatment outcomes. Chiropractic care, like all medical treatment, benefits from the placebo response.

          It is hard to construct a trustworthy placebo for clinical trials of spinal manipulative therapy (SMT), as experts often disagree about whether a proposed placebo actually has no effect. The efficacy of maintenance care in chiropractic is STILL unknown.

          Faith wrote on October 8th, 2009
    • Sorry, but your research is in the wrong places. Sitting on a quality, not cheap, ball is one of the most simple and effective things that a human can do – it is far more natural than sitting on a static spinal dehydrating piece of junk as you suggested.Yes, you may get their back straight, but so can i if you tie me to a post – but this has nothing to do with spinal health.

      Neil wrote on February 2nd, 2012
    • Worst thing I ever did was get one of those ball chairs. At first it was just ok but eventually caused a lot of low back pain for me. A friend of mine who had no low back pain or any postural issues (he sat upright, did not cross legs) developed very bad back pain and a sudden scoliosis causing muscle spasms. I’ve since read that the ball chairs are not recommended by many (too much spinal pressure) and I can confirm through my own exp and a friends that they are terrible.

      tom wrote on April 7th, 2012
  29. As someone who spends a major amount of time sitting every day, I just wanted to say thanks for the helpful article. Posture is truly an essential element of good health.

    Courtney_182 wrote on October 6th, 2009
  30. Gaiam has a stability ball chair that I use at work–I need to get one for home, too.–it feels like the best of both worlds.

    Catalina wrote on October 6th, 2009
  31. I used to use an Aeron chair, but I’d always end up slouching in it. So, I replaced it with a Swopper stool, and I love it because it forces me to sit upright with good posture.

    Alex wrote on October 6th, 2009
  32. I ended up going with an adjustable-height desk (GeekDesk), which lets me stand part of the day, kneel in a kneeling chair, and sit on a stool as needed. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a regular desk if I can help it.

    Great article! Nice to see some solid factual support for what my intuition and my body have been telling for years. Thanks for writing & posting it.

    Jackson wrote on October 6th, 2009
  33. ” The relatively recent innovation known as the Division of Labor is not so remote that our genetic composition has had time to adapt again. Since most of us now are freed from the necessity of personally obtaining our subsistence, physical activity is regarded as optional. Indeed it is, from the standpoint of immediate necessity, but the reality of millions of years of adaptation to a ruggedly physical existence will not go away just because desks were invented.”

    -Mark Rippetoe, strength coach

    dr. pierre debs wrote on October 7th, 2009
  34. I am a chiropractor, and I have a rule that I give to all my patients – the 20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes you sit, stand up for 20 seconds and do some type of stretch. This alone will give your body more movement, and help minimize that forward head posture that everyone develops when sitting down for long periods. (Posture is an unconscious process, correcting it is conscious, so if you dont do it right, as soon as you are not paying attention, you will start slumping again.

    Also, in a shameless product plug, I have also developed a series of postural exercises and recomendadtion on how to deal with neck stiffness and pain from sitting at a desk, which you can find if you click my name.

    Dr Steve wrote on October 7th, 2009
  35. http://www.ballchair.com/

    These chairs are “weird”, but they do work. It takes some time to get accustomed to sitting with good posture.

    John wrote on October 7th, 2009
    • This chair was actually designed by a former teacher of mine (the Ekman in “Ekman-Wilson.” She is a teacher of the Alexander technique, which is all about unlearning all your “bad” postural habits and allowing your body to move as it was designed to. She used to talk about her attempts to patent this chair in class back in the mid-90s. I’m happy she finally did it.

      You all might be interested in the Alexander technique itself…it’s pretty amazing.

      TJ wrote on November 29th, 2009
  36. Ah Thanks for this mark. This is just what i needed. It’s all about preventing back problems before they happen. i continuously change seating arrangements and this is something i refer to on the go. :)

    Shaun wrote on October 7th, 2009
  37. I’ve been trying to keep my posture straight and true for a while. This article had perfect timing and showed me a lot of things I should do and some things I’m doing wrong. I’m definitely going to try all of the things you suggested! Thanks for all the great info every day!!

    Joel M wrote on October 7th, 2009
  38. good post.

    I wish i had a sit-stand desk at work, especially as i have a herniate disc and sitting can be painful, but the desks are too expensive.

    I make sure I walk every lunch hour, and alternate between a kneeling stool and ordinary chair. Still far from ideal though.

    Working from home has just been introduced in my workplace, so I try to telework 1 day per week so i can do whatever i want (stand, lie down etc)

    alex wrote on October 7th, 2009
  39. Great post Mark! It’s so true how something so simple,even as simple as sitting can cause such a complet low back problem.

    Vic Magary - GymJunkies wrote on October 7th, 2009
  40. Great post! I’m really considering bringing in my yoga ball (which I never use now that I joined a crossfit gym) and sitting on it at work. I’m sure people will comment, and I can keep the chair around for when clients come in, but I really like this idea. With my mind on the office environment, I was wondering if you could do a post about high heeled shoes. Though I doubt you have any PERSONAL experience…they’re obviously not very grok-friendly, and yet I still find myself turning back to wearing them at work, even when they make my feet hurt or my calves cramp up. I need a brain reset when it comes to heels.

    Chelsea wrote on October 7th, 2009

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