According to our new research, the average Brit spends a whopping 44 days (that’s 1,060 hours) sat on the sofa each year. But keeping up with the latest drama series while relaxing on the couch could have more serious implications than a missed deadline or gym session, as one in four (24%) Brits admit to experiencing back pain at least once a day.
Exploring the nation’s relationship with their sofas, our recent study reveals that the average Brit spends 20 hours and 24 minutes relaxing on the couch per week, which means that throughout the course of a year, people spend just over 44 days sitting, lying or slouching on the sofa - which is over one month of the year!
With such a long time spent relaxing on this piece of furniture, it’s not only important to select one with optimum comfort and style for the home but to understand the best way to enjoy your relaxation time, without damaging your back, neck or shoulders.
That’s why we’ve teamed up with Chartered Physiotherapist and owner of Your Pilates Physio, Lyndsay Hirst to analyse the nation’s favourite sofa sitting positions, and highlight just how each impacts the body while providing tips on how to sit on your sofa without causing too much damage to your back.
The nation’s favourite sitting positions
Legs up on the sofa to the side of the body. Upper body twisted to face the TV/front of the room (27%)
“The spine is twisted here, so being sat in this position for a prolonged period of time may cause some discomfort in either the back or the hips. This position would cause additional problems if the person had some restrictions in their spine or pelvis, putting more strain on the facet joints of the spine.”
Slouching low in the seat with no lower back support with legs resting on another surface (25%)
“This slumped posture creates a curve to the spine that causes the fluid to be moved to the posterior part of the intervertebral discs, potentially putting pressure on them. The neck and shoulder muscles have to work harder than normal to keep the head upright, which could eventually lead to muscular discomfort. Sustaining this posture will also eventually lead to weakening of the back and abdominal muscles, which in turn may cause back pain.”
Slouching low in the seat with no lower back support and feet on the ground (17%)
“Just like the boomerang position, the back curve here puts pressure on the spine, while making it harder for the neck and shoulders to support the head. Additionally, the thighs are not supported which would again put additional strain on the back.”
The ideal sitting position for your posture
Despite these potentially troubling positions being some of the nation’s favourite, our research also revealed one in four (24%) are sitting exactly how Lyndsay would suggest you should in order to prevent pain:
Feet flat on the floor, back fully supported by sofa/cushions
“Here the body is in perfect alignment: head in line with shoulders and spine, and hips in a neutral position. While this is an ideal seating posture, sustaining it for a long time will eventually cause discomfort, purely because the body is designed to move. To avoid this, I would suggest getting up and walking around every now and then to break up the time and prevent you from slumping into some of the favoured positions which could cause pain over time.”
Dr. Diana Gall, MD and GP at Doctor4U, adds, “Luckily, most cases of back pain can be treated from home with pain relief, ice and heat therapy, and gentle exercises. You should make sure to keep your back mobile without aggravating the affected muscles or ligaments too much.
“Although back pain usually isn’t serious, it’s important to be aware of symptoms which might indicate that you’ve got more than a minor sprain or strain. Consult your GP if your back pain is affecting your daily life, stopping you from doing some activities. You should also make an appointment with a doctor if paracetamol and ibuprofen don’t help to alleviate the pain, as you may need stronger medication.”
Commenting on the findings, Interior Style Advisor at Furniture Choice, Rebecca Snowden says: “As much as we love relaxing on the sofa after a long day, it’s quite shocking to see that it adds up to a month and a half each year! We’ll definitely be taking these tips on board to make sure we’re getting the most out of our time on the couch.”
For help and advice on how to select the best sofa for you and your home, check out our sofa buying guide.