Do you sit all day at your job? 

It’s common now for many people who sit for work to experience chronic pain, often in the back, neck and/or shoulders. There’s a lot of advice out there about how to sit “properly” so this doesn’t happen. There are gadgets and gizmos, ergonomic chairs and standing desks. There are exercise routines and stretches. But does any of it actually work?

When your bones are aligned, it should be possible to sit up straight without effort or pain. Instead of consciously positioning yourself as you think you should (for example pulling the shoulders back and down, arching the back) – consider that it’s your muscles that are tight and are pulling on your bones, therefore “sitting up straight” is not comfortably possible for you.

Martha recalls this about a client she once worked with:

“I worked with a woman who’d had chronic neck and back pain for 10 years. In our first private Somatics session I taught her to release and relax the tight muscles of the back. She felt much better. 

Then I asked her to do a simple awareness exercise:: She sat profile in a chair in front of a full length mirror. I asked her to pretend she was at work, and sit up straight. Then I had her close her eyes and gently arch and release, then slowly round her back, letting her pelvis and tailbone go along with the movement. I asked her to slowly sit up straight, with her weight on top of her sit bones – the bones at the bottom of the pelvis. When she was sitting with her back relaxed and tall, I asked her how she felt. The answer wasn’t surprising: She felt “slumped forwards.”

This client had become so habituated to sitting with her back contracted, slightly forward of her pelvis, that sitting without the back contracted actually felt odd and unfamiliar! When she realized that all these years at work she’d been sitting arched and contracted, with her weight pitched forward, rather than on top of her spine, she was shocked. Did that have something to do with her neck and back pain? She decided that it was a big factor. She continued to do this “mirror exercise” at work whenever she felt her back get tight. She reported back that this simple exercise had a profound impact on her ability to reverse the pain she’d suffered with for so many years.

Watch this video to try the awareness exercise for yourself.