Back pain and your posture at work

By Michael Dorausch, D.C. staff writer

Researchers are using a new form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to show that sitting in an upright position places unnecessary strain on one’s back, leading to potentially chronic back pain problems if one spends long hours sitting. The study was conducted at Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen, Scotland, and was presented earlier this week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

Researchers looked at three postural positions; sitting upright (at 90 degrees), slouching forward, and reclining back (at a 135 degree angle). In the group studied, researchers found the reclining position to be the best of the three.

The research involved 22 healthy volunteers that had no history of back pain or surgery. In the study, a positional MRI unit was used, rather than the common nonweight bearing type of MRI equipment typically found in hospitals and imaging centers.

patient pointing to lumbar vertebrae - chiropracticOne of the problems found when using non weight bearing MRI techniques is the absence of the effects of gravity. For example, if one felt back pain while sitting but not while lying down, it would be more beneficial to get an MRI scan in the seated posture.

Currently, there’s only one educational institution in the United States that offers such services. Life Chiropractic College West, located in Hayward, California uses positional MRI technology to allow patients to be scanned in weight bearing positions as well as in lateral flexion studies, rotational studies, and flexion extension studies.

While this was a small study, involving only 22 individuals, I expect we will begin to see quite a few more in the near future, as the still new MRI technology becomes more popular. In the meantime, it is important to recognize that this was a study involving a small group of people, all with no history of back discomfort or surgery. Many people reading news related articles on the study may assume that these same postures would be beneficial to them.

Of the three postural positions, there is little argument that the slouching position is the worst. Most chiropractors, along with other health care professionals, massage therapists, pilates instructors, music teachers, yoga guru’s, or anyone else that recommends postural techniques and positions will typically suggest that a person avoid a slouched or slumped over posture, when sitting and/or when standing.

While the recent research involving these 22 individuals suggests that the reclining position produces less weight-bearing strain than the 90 degrees upright position, there are still many factors to be considered, especially when addressing the posture of a the individual that does have a history of back pain or discomfort.

Conditions like herniated or sequestered discs, vertebral subluxation, osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, osteoporosis, hemivertebrae, scoliosis, spinal fusions, laminectomies, sacralization (of the 5th lumbar vertebra), lumbarization (of the sacrum), and many others will need to be factored into the decision-making process on selecting postures that are best for the individual seeking greater comfort and improved function.

Besides the above mentioned conditions we have things to consider such as the individuals age, sex, body weight, muscle definition, muscle balance or imbalance, head carriage, atlas-axis positioning, cervical and thoracic spine health, pregnancy, and numerous other factors that I’ll be reminded about in e-mail responses to this article.

So while it’s nice to see studies being done utilizing positional MRI techniques rather than the old non-weight bearing methods, it’s still best to have one’s posture assessed by a professional that specializes in postural and/or biomechanical correction.

Whether you live in Atlanta Georgia or Westchester California, your Local Chiropractors office, one that utilizes postural improving techniques, would be a great place to begin. For those in Hayward California, you can contact the Life West Health Center for more information about their postural and weight-bearing MRI unit. The health centers number is (510) 780 4567, extensions 4380 or 4020.

Article published earlier today related to this topic…
Back Pain: researchers say don’t sit up straight @ 7:25 pm | Article ID: 1164781527