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The received wisdom seems to be that bending forward for prolonged periods of time is bad for the back. Fine. However, the "received wisdom" has been, for a long time now, that sitting bolt upright is the best posture for the back. However, a study actually concluded that much more of a reclined posture was actually better for the back:

Back posture image

So, what is the scientific consensus on this, or is it still under debate?

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    This is a great question. I was going to attempt to answer but got hung up by an issue that exemplifies a problem with scientific reports in the popular media: I can’t figure out which study that BBC article is referring to! A search using the author and date mentioned there Bashir w[Author] AND 2006[dp] yields two studies, neither of which exactly match the BBC description. Jez, if you have a better idea, let me know. I don’t feel like I can answer without evaluating that study. – Susan Apr 11 '15 at 14:03
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    Pretty bad form for the BBC not to even give a proper reference to the study they mentioned! – Jez Apr 11 '15 at 20:46
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    @Jez, Perhaps there may be no one good posture. It may require not sitting in the same position for long durations. – Pacerier Apr 14 '15 at 16:24
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The best long-term perfect posture is subjective due to the variety of body types, incorrect posture differs from person to person and person's proper posture can be incorrect posture for someone else and vice versa.

Usually the good sitting posture can be determined by the following methods:

  • Support your back to avoid back pain.
  • Adjust your chair.
  • Rest your feet on floor.
  • If you're using computer, then:
    • place your screen at eye level,
    • place your keyboard in front of you when typing,
    • position and use the mouse as close to you as possible,
    • avoid screen reflection,
    • if using spectacles, it's important to see the screen easily without having to raise or lower your head.
  • Make frequently used objects accessible (such as telephone, stapler), so you can avoid repeated stretching or twisting to reach things.

Source: How to sit correctly at NHS

The common mistakes involve:

  • Hunched back and 'text neck'.

    Hunched back and 'text neck'.

    When hunching over a computer, your head may tend to lean forward, which can cause stiffness and pain in the neck.

    Over time, this type of posture can contribute to you developing a rounded upper back, a condition called kyphosis, which can cause shoulder and upper back stiffness and pain.

  • Poking your chin.

    Poking your chin.

    The poking chin posture is often caused by sitting too low, a screen set too high, a hunched back or a combination of all three.

    A poking chin posture can lead to muscle weakness around the neck, compressing the neck joints, which over time can lead to stiffness and pain in the neck, shoulders and upper back and cause headaches.

  • Rounded shoulders.

    Rounded shoulders.

    Rounded shoulders are typically caused by poor posture habits, muscle imbalances and an uneven exercise regimen, such as too much focus on chest strength and neglecting the upper back.

    Over time, these muscle imbalances will result in poor positioning of your shoulders, which can lead to shoulder and neck stiffness and pain.

  • Sitting cross legged.

    Sitting cross legged.

    Over time you may develop muscle imbalances in your hips, which can cause stiffness and pain in the hips and lower back.

  • Cradling your phone.

    Cradling your phone.

  • Slouching in a chair.

    Slouching in a chair.

Common posture mistakes and fixes at NHS

Wikipedia summarise that in the following way:

  • rounded and elevated shoulders and a pushed-forward head position,

    This position places stress on the spine between the top of the neck and skull and the base of the neck and upper shoulders.

  • a forward tilting of the hips which is increasing the curve of the lumbar spine, and a protruding stomach

    This position places stress over both the hip joints and lower back.

Poor posture can result in musculoskeletal distortion in the neck, and lower and upper back, it can also impede the ability of the lungs to expand and many other injuries.

When the posture is correct, it allows your body muscles to breathe at optimum capacity.

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Short answer: there is no best long-term sitting posture. If there is any, take care of posture (I'd risk to say upright is best), and move every certain amount of time in the chair and/or around.

I'm for positive responses so let me elaborate a bit more. All cautious considerations, as kenorb properly states, are ok. However, even if some of those considerations attend to the actual question, which was what should I DO when sitting? (notice the question was not pointed so much as to what NOT doing). What follows is an intent to give further argumentation in how to achieve the goal of sitting in a way that can take care of good posture in general, how and mostly why.

Rather move around once in a while, and shift between different subtle positions. When you are sitting for long, you don't want to atrofiate your muscles, nor your posture. Hence several considerations:

  • Check the post sitting is the new smoking, and the main answer: The solution is simple. Move.

  • Consider that what you need to take care of when sitting is your whole body/organism, and not just a part.

  • When sitting backwards you can alleviate your lower back for a while, but doing so as a norm can weaken that area as well.

  • Remember that the human posture, standing or sitting or moving, has a certain balance. We have anterior and posterior muscles surrounding our body to make this balance possible. This is why I would infer that if one has bad posture (not necesarily back problems) along the day...reclining can be more easy going. But in the same coin, in the long run this may not favor good posture and a distributed and balanced muscle development.

  • The study you mention says that the 135-degree posture, suggesting less strain is placed on the spinal disks. Of course this may be true, but to conclude from that that it'd be best to not sit at 90º is rather far fetched. I figure in some way that the article suggests that maximum relaxation can always be best. But in reality: (if we assume not to be jello floating in a liquid environment) we do need a certain amount of tension to function properly. Remember the fat moveless couch potatoes from the movie Wall-E that underdevelop muscles and even bone-structure.

  • Again, the reference you take mentions volunteers with healthy backs, this ussualy means that they'd have no problems in that area, but I'd argue that not many people reach a full healthy posture in a broader sense.

  • See what kind of chair you have available. Some may favor a certain way of sitting or several.

Also, Galen Cranz's been researching chairs: here interview and book reference.


Since many people don't only sit, but also are in front of a pc let me add:

  • If you can use a keyboard near your lap, this can be better than having it a higher level. I find the latter to thrust your elbows, shoulders, upper-back and neck upwards.

  • Consider, like apple co-creator Oz Wozniak did: Dvorak's effort and resulting keyboard configuration. The main aim there is not for speed but for comfort, and avoiding carpal tunnel syndrome.

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From my experience, it is better to change postures while you sit long.

Most often, I sit in a posture similar to below yoga posture 'Padmasana' in my chair, but not for so long, just for 5 or 10 minutes. It really helps to reduce the tension on the back.

Actually, it need not be in exactly this position, just cross your legs as you can. After 5 or 10 minutes you can go back to your normal sitting posture as suggested in above answers. Whenever you feel tension on the back just try this posture for a few minutes.

Try this out and see how it goes.

enter image description here

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