I recently rode a Go Train from Burlington to Toronto as many of my patients do on a daily basis. Given that many of my chiropractic patients have back pain, I was interested to look at the shape of the seats and whether they were conducive to good spinal posture. As I’ve seen in the past with airplanes, the shape of the train seats didn’t seem ideal from a chiropractic / spinal posture perspective.
In the picture above, I’ve tried to give a general outline of a good lumbar lordosis (in red). Generally speaking, the red line is a shape that most people want to hold whether sitting or standing. A good lumbar lordosis allows the lumbar discs and vertebrae to be “loaded” evenly. Our spine is naturally shaped this way and it tends not to over-burden any one structure. The blue lines outline our pelvis. When we sit, the pelvis takes up the bottom part of a chair. Obviously, this amount of space will depend on the size of the person. Now let’s look where that red line “sits” on the train seat…
As I mentioned, the blue area is roughly the amount of space allotted for the pelvis and buttocks. The red line is trying to illustrate the general shape of a lumbar lordosis. Interestingly, by the time you account for the pelvis, the lumbar lordosis is the opposite shape to the angle of support in the seat (outlined in pink). Obviously the manufacturers of the train seat had to try and make a shape that satisfied the greatest number of passengers. Size and height of a person would most likely be the most pertinent variable in this case. What surprised me though is that I would consider myself “average” height if you take into consideration both male and female passengers. The lumbar support offered by the seat was much too low for me.
So what is the solution? Again, I don’t know all the factors one needs to consider when designing a train seat. All I do know is that the seat shape was a “good” effort, but unlikely to mimic the spine shape of many people. The lumbar support is too low as it doesn’t account for the buttocks and pelvis. As a result, there is a concave shape in the seat where we need a convex support for the lumbar lordosis. If you lean against the back and allow it to shape your posture, you may be sitting with a poor shape and loading spinal structures in a less than healthy way. A lumbar support might be worth a try. Another option is to just sit upright and not use the back at all. Although this might get tiring, it would allow a person to take control of their spine shape and not rely on external devices.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Please contact us! Looking for help with your lower back pain? We have the solution. We are a physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage and athletic therapy clinic located in Burlington. We treat patients of all abilities, including those who sit on a train and commute from Burlington to Toronto! Give us a call!