How to Sit on Couches/Sofas without Pain

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How to Sit on Couches/Sofas without Pain

Do you find yourself complaining about how uncomfortable furniture is? Do you squirm a lot, constantly shifting your posture to get comfortable?  This is really common.  There are 2 big challenges these days to getting comfortable when sitting: 1) Our modern misaligned posture and 2) Our modern unhealthy chairs.  How can you deal with these challenges?

To deal with the first issue of misaligned posture, I’ll refer you to previous articles on my blog.  Try searching under the “sitting” category.  You can find a link to my YouTube video on Pain-Free Sitting as well as an article on “10 Tips for Pain-Free Sitting”.  I won’t repeat the details here, except to say that you want to sit on your “sitz bones” or butt bones, NOT on the fleshy part of your buttocks, and then relax your back muscles, rather than trying to “sit up straight.”

What about the type of chairs we sit in?

When you take this misaligned posture and then add challenging chairs, this leads to lots of back pain!  Here I’ll address one of the most difficult seating environments that people complain about:


These can be challenging because they can start to lose their support over the years. I remember a sofa in one studio in Berkeley where I used to teach.  When we sat down, we would sink down into the cushions. The couch was sunken more deeply in the middle than on the sides, so we would also feel like we were rolling in toward the center.  Very annoying.

I did have a hide-a-bed couch for a while that kept its firmness very well due to the metal frame inside it, though it seemed to weigh 500 pounds!

Couches are also usually too deep – meaning that they are designed for people with very long legs! If you’re shorter, one tip that can help with this is to put a firm cushion behind your back – enough so that you can scoot all the way back and have the crease behind your knees at the front edge. Most people who don’t do this end up with collapsed spines, since their backs do not have enough support. They end up sitting in a “C” shape.

If you’re taller, you might need that cushion to be big enough so that it comes up higher on your back, to give more support. Otherwise, you might find yourself bending backward over the cushions, which will be uncomfortable and a strain on your back.

How The Media Contributes to the Problem

When you see ads with people sitting in furniture, notice their posture. What model of the spine are they promoting?  You’ll often see images of people collapsed and looking “relaxed” (like the woman in the image above).  We have the idea that this is ideal. After all, she looks happy and relaxed, right? You might think, “Oh, that looks good – just what I want to do now.”

But if you were to sit (actually more like reclining) on the couch like that, I’d bet that your back would hurt pretty quickly.  Some people may feel fine while on the couch, but as soon as they get up, they feel a nagging ache or a sharp pain. You can be pretty sure that how you were sitting caused that pain.

So you might consider that what you think is relaxed is actually stressed and tense. Next time you sink into one of those “relaxed” positions, really check in with your body. Are you truly relaxed, or is it just a familiar posture that you associate with relaxation? Then notice: how do you feel when you get up? That should give you some good clues to stop the pain in the future.

(c) 2013 Dana K. Davis, All Rights Reserved

By |2018-05-30T15:44:13+00:00September 18th, 2013|Back Pain, Furniture, Healthy Posture, Sitting, Sitting Posture|2 Comments

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  1. eliza twist November 7, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    I’m sure that my approach is not ideal, but I usually end up with my legs folded up on the chair or couch along with the rest of my body. Lately I’ve been keeping the stand up every 20 minutes rule in mind. Again, not as much about ideal position as it is about keeping other parts of the body in motion. I really must take more of your workshops…and I will.

    • admin November 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm

      It’s great to stand up every 20 minutes just for circulation, but I love being free to sit as long as I want, not needing to get up to eliminate or prevent pain. Luckily, the posture of people in Balance shows us how to do this in comfort!

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