When Mama said to “sit up straight and put your shoulders back”, she wasn’t
joking! Ergonomics are a vital part of healthy living. The proper position or
movement of the body will help prevent injury, strengthen core muscles and
improve nerve circulation. Two main areas to recognize the importance of
ergonomics are sleeping and sitting positions. This includes sleeping on your back
or side and sitting in your car, recliner or computer station.
Back sleepers should use a thin pillow under their knees which relax the low back
and leg muscles. Side sleepers need to use a pillow (medium thickness) between
their knees. Ideally a body pillow is best because of its length. Body pillows are long
enough to run the length of most legs (knees to past the ankles). This prevents
the hip from twisting which can cause hip numbness, sciatica symptoms and disc
Stomach sleepers are encouraged to start the night off lying on their side with a
thick pillow in front of their chest. So when they do roll to their stomach, the torso
actually rolls onto the pillow. Which will leave them sleeping at a 45 degree or half
way on their stomach and side. This is a good start to breaking that stomach
sleeping bad habit.
Let’s review the proper neck position when sleeping. Using a pillow that supports
the neck, notice I did not say head, is very important. The distance from the bed to
neck is always greater than the distance from bed to the head. As a general rule,
the head should not tilt above the shoulders (the pillow is too thick). Imagine being
a side sleeper, your nose and belly button should be parallel. But back sleepers,
should make sure their ear is in alignment with the middle of the hips. Tip: To add
neck support, roll up a small hand towel and slide it inside the pillow case under
The second important ergonomic position is sitting. We spend so much of our time
sitting in the car, at work, at the computer, and let us not forget time spent eating or
watching television/movies. Do not slouch! Sit up straight with the natural curve of
the spine. Our torso and hips should be 90-110 degrees of each other. Most office
chairs are able to tilt the seat downward to create more than 90 degree angle. Tip:
Use small cushions to fill in bucket seats. The steering wheel should come to our
wrists when the arms are fully extended. The computer screen should be directly in
front of us. Our finger tip should just touch the screen when the arm is fully
extended. When looking straight ahead at the computer screen, our eyes should
be looking at the top one-third of the computer screen.
So, let us review…bad posture and/or ergonomics cause weak muscles, pinched
nerves and too much pressure on the discs! Sleep with proper pillows that fit your
body and do not slouch. But remember, these new habits will take time to master,
so be patient and persistent.
Always be aware of your back, it cannot be replaced!
If you would like more information on ergonomics, you can call 303-684-8380. We
will send you a free Special Health Report. You can also view our web site at
Dr. Teresa Davies, D.C.