A recent study by Changi General Hospital found that about 80 per cent of adult Singaporeans suffer, or have suffered, from back pain. People who sit in front of the computer for long hours or lead stressful or sedentary lifestyles were at a higher risk of developing back pain.
Many people tend to slouch when they sit, resulting in strain on their shoulder and back muscles. The result is a sore and aching back. However, back pain can be reduced if the spine's natural 'S' curve is maintained while sitting. This optimal spinal position is known as the 'neutral spine'. When your spine is in such a position, stress to the muscles, vertebrae and tissues in the back is minimised.
If poor posture is aggravating your back discomfort, adjusting the way you sit may offer some relief. However, most people find it difficult to maintain an ideal posture as it usually requires some degree of self-awareness and discipline.
Tools to help correct one's postures have been around for awhile. AsiaOne Health takes a look at some of these aids.
This is a new orthotic device that was just launched in Singapore. The odd-looking device is designed to help tilt the pelvis forward as well as prevent the buttock muscles from flattening out when you sit. This induces a natural 'S' curve and helps the user sit better without even thinking about it. The result is a less-painful back at the end of the day.
Unlike other devices which are placed against the back, BackJoy is meant to be sat on in a specific manner. This can take a while to get used to, but the fact that one experiences less pain makes it worth it.
The orthotic's makers stress that the device is not a cure for back problems, and is only meant to reduce discomfort and pain.
Plus points: It relieves back pain and discomfort and helps correct your posture without requiring any conscious effort on your part. Some people find that this effectively relieves tension and pain in their backs and necks. Over time, your body's muscles will 'remember' this new, better posture, meaning you can sit properly even without using the BackJoy.
Minus point: It is expensive ($64.90) when compared to other back aids. Also, if you are accustomed to sitting with poor posture, you may experience some degree of soreness when you first use BackJoy.
Some Pilates and rehabilitation trainers make use of 'medicine balls' - rubber air-filled balls that can range from the size of a grapefruit to about 90cm in diameter - to train their clients.
To help correct one's posture, you can put a small medicine ball (about the size of a large grapefruit) between one's upper or mid back and the back of the chair. This causes the body to tilt forward slightly while requiring it to remain upright in order to maintain the ball's position. Any slouching or bad posture will result in the ball dropping from its position, thus acting as a reminder to maintain a neutral spine.
Plus points: Simple to use and can be a good reminder to oneself to sit properly. This is perhaps more effective for individuals who already have strong core muscles and a good posture. Usually, such medicine balls can double up as aids for a variety of exercises that can help ease tension in the back and shoulders.
Minus points: You cannot move or rotate your torso because doing so will result in dropping the ball. Because it requires a lot of conscious effort, this may not be suitable for everyone. Medicine balls of an appropriate size are also rather difficult to obtain, although some sports stores may carry them.
Such aids have been around for a very long time. They usually work by supporting the lumbar spine or lower back in order to relieve tension from that area.
In its most elementary form, it consists of an arched plastic mesh that can be strapped to the back of an office chair. More sophisticated versions boast 'massage nodes' or even memory foam cushions for greater comfort.
Some people improvise by rolling up a towel and using it as a lumbar support instead.
Plus points: Depending on the model that you get, this can easily be the cheapest back aid around. (Some of the cheapest ones we've seen cost only $9.90.) Such back supports can give immediate relief for some people.
Minus points: It loses its effectiveness quickly. Many users find that they can easily slump back against the back support without discomfort, meaning that their postural problems are not corrected at all.
Good posture will take a bit of effort and discipline to achieve. However, for those who are serious about correcting the way they sit, there are efficient devices that can help them achieve better posture and relief from back pain with time.