Introduction The harmful effects of sustained sitting and the health of the spine are well documented. The focus of much of this investigation has been sedentary occupations. However, how people sit during leisure hours can impact on the health of the spine both in and out of working hours. Methods A literature search was conducted using Amed, Cinahl and OVID Medline databases. Papers published between 1985 and 2007 were selected for review. These included epidemiological and experimental studies that explored the relationships between seated postures and health of the lumbar spine. Until recently there was confusion in the scientific literature as to which seated postures were least harmful: lordosed or kyphosed. This article reviews and analyses these conflicts in relation to leisure sitting. Results Analysis of the literature demonstrates that kyphosed seated postures when sustained are more harmful to the health of the lumbar spine than lordosed seated postures. There is a misconception amongst designers and users of leisure seating that kyphosed relaxed postures are comfortable and that comfort equates with health. It is argued that sustained kyphosed postures are insidiously harmful to the spine in that they may contribute to disc degeneration in the absence of pain. Sustained kyphosed postures also adversely affect spinal ligaments, muscles and joints and lead to neuromuscular and cumulative trauma disorders and loss of spinal stability. Conclusion Recent research demonstrates that postures popularly assumed in recreational or leisure seating lead to cumulative damage to soft tissues of the spine. These effects may still be present at the commencement of the following work day. In the prevention of work disability caused by sustained sitting, health professionals must consider the impact of leisure seating design and recreational sitting behaviour.
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This review does not consider the effect of seated posture on those with spondylolisthesis or severe degenerative changes whose spines for reasons of anatomical configuration prefer flexion.
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Pynt, J., Mackey, M.G. & Higgs, J. Kyphosed Seated Postures: Extending Concepts of Postural Health Beyond the Office. J Occup Rehabil 18, 35–45 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10926-008-9123-6
- Lumbar vertebrae
- Sustained flexed sitting
- Leisure seating