Sitting right!

In the news

Over the past 2 years our homes have transformed into makeshift work offices and classrooms. Our work and home lives have collided. Areas once known for gathering and relaxing have been turned into spaces conducive for zoom meetings and remote learning. We’ve all made many adjustments to what we once termed normal life. Whether you are sitting whiule working at home or sitting with young children while guiding them through a virtual classroom, maintaining good seated posture is imperative to managing stress and to minimize the physical impact on our muscles and joints.

The object is to maintain a 90-degree or right angle at our knees and hips to ensure that our pelvis can adopt a “neutral” position which enables our weight to be evenly distributed through our sitz bones. For those who have a harder time reaching the floor, find something to rest your feet on (i.e. a step stool, stacked textbooks, etc.) which will help shift your center mass out of a slouched position. Try pushing your heels into the ground and use that energy to give your upper body support to remain erect.

Where are our sitz bones exactly?

Our sitz bones, also commonly called our “sit bones,” “sitting bones,” or more anatomically speaking our ischial tuberosities, are what bears our weight while seated.

Keil, David. “Sit Bones = Ischial Tuberosities.” Sit Bone Pain – 2017 Update 30 January 2017,

How do I know I’m doing that correctly?

Practice rounding your lower back as much as you can, then perform the opposite movement of “arching” your lower back. The middle point between those two ranges is a neutral position, and it is there where these bones will feel most pointy at the base of your buttocks.

Having control of your pelvis is where proper sitting begins. 

Once you feel you have found a middle orientation, do your best to distribute your weight evenly over both hips and fight the urge to lean one way or the other. Leaning predominantly to the left or right over time can lead to unwanted asymmetries. It is important that your lower back maintains a small curve, as it is common with prolonged bouts of sitting to lose this curve and assume more of a slouched or hunchback position. A small rolled up towel or pillow can be placed to act as a cue and support for this position.

Now that the lower body is correct, it is imperative to maintain the natural curves of your spine all the way up to your head. This means keeping your hips, shoulders, and ears aligned with each other.  Be sure to pay extra attention to your neck and ensure that it is not overly protruding forward which puts exorbitant amounts of pressure on your cervical spine and can lead to a host of unwanted issues. If working on a computer, make sure there is ample distance between your head and the monitor. Also, do your best to keep the monitor at eye level to prevent undesirable neck tension.

As a parent instructing or watching their children do homework, keep an eye out for the rounded hunchback position. Try to encourage your kids to do schoolwork at a desk or table and not in bed if they can help it. Catching this habit early will prevent it from becoming more pronounced.

If finding and maintaining good seated posture is hard for you, consider reaching out to a physical therapist via telehealth who can help you understand why your body has trouble tolerating a “neutral position.” There are a number of great stretches and exercises you can do to ameliorate these symptoms.

I often warn my patients about the dangers of prolonged sitting. Push comes to shove, we as human beings are not designed to do it. However, when you are required to be seated for long periods, it is important to take frequent breaks to stretch to counterbalance the effects of sitting. Standing desks are a great option. Just remember, if you’ve been sitting at a desk for years, it’s going to take some time to get acclimated to standing, so do it gradually.

When it’s time to sit back and relax with the family, try sitting on the floor cross legged with erect posture. It’s harder than you think. But if you build it up slowly, your body will thank you.