The problem with using the back of your chair is that you start with good intentions—of leaving your back resting against the back of the chair—then before you know it, your attention has literally pulled you forward in the direction of…
- your computer as you work on your document
- the juicy novel you’re engrossed in
- the steering wheel as you drive in rush hour
- the friend you’re talking to across the table at lunch
You end up in a situation where your lower back is against the back of the chair and you’ve curled forward from the waist, head, and neck leading, toward the object of your attention.
Sort of nut shaped. Over time, that nut shape puts a lot of stress on your neck and back.
Your body tends to follow your attention. And your attention tends to be on what you’re looking at—which almost all the time is in front of you. That’s just a fact of being human.
One of the challenges of sitting and really using the back of your chair for support is to stay one with it—to stay back—while your attention is forward.
So, first off you need a reminder to stay back.
That’s where I find big large firm pillows can be really useful. Place one behind your back in your office chair, or on the couch, or on your kitchen chair. Use a pillow big enough that it stretches all the way from your pelvis/hips to your upper back/shoulder blades. For traveling, I use a rectangular-shaped inflatable pillow—positioned vertically—on the plane, in a rental car—anywhere I need a reminder to stay back and be one with the chair. And it rolls up tight and fits easily in my backpack.
Secondly, in order to stay back—to be one with the chair—you have to adjust how close you’re to what you’re engaged with in front of you. The distance between your back and your hands matters.
If you’re too far away from what you’re doing, it’s impossible to comfortably stay back and also do what you need to do in front of you.
I’m relatively tall (5′ 9.5″ to be exact) but I sit closer to my steering wheel than most people my height. And it’s all to do with being able to be one with the chair (or car seat). If I’m too far away, I end up reaching for the steering wheel and that tends to pull me forward away from the back of the seat. A nice distance allows me to stay back, with my hands forward on the wheel and an easy bend in my elbows.
Check to see if your office chair has armrests that are preventing your chair from rolling in close enough to your desk to allow you to stay back and one with your chair while working at the computer. If you do have a problem, a screwdriver can fix it.
Let’s recap. Keep in mind these two basics:
- Have a physical reminder like a big pillow to stay back and one with the chair
- Get close enough to your work so you can stay back and at the same time comfortably engage with the work in front of you.
Keep those in mind and you may find some creative ways to set up your workspace.
Image: Andrey Popov/Shutterstock