Upright or Reclined?: Why We Advocate Maintaining a Neutral Spine

Here at Lumo BodyTech, we advocate upright posture with a neutral pelvis and a straight, stacked spine. Our technology is designed to detect pelvic tilt and Lumo Back gives you a gentle vibration to remind you when you slouch out of a neutral pelvis position.

Charles Wang, M.D. Co-Founder

Charles Wang, M.D.

We are often asked, however, why we believe this is the healthiest posture. One often-quoted study from 2006, for example, suggests that sitting in a reclined position with a 135-degree angle between your thighs and torso is the best position for your back health.

I love getting questions from all of our smart and curious Lumo Backers, so I wanted to explain why Lumo Back is designed to promote neutral pelvis posture.

First of all, we believe that the best posture is always the next posture. Our bodies were made to move, so frequent movement is always preferable to any sedentary position. Even if you have to sit all day at work, standing up for a quick stretch break or short walk to the water cooler is an easy way to “reset” your posture and improve your health.  Try to do this as often as you can.

Obviously, we do all have to sit and stand still sometimes. When you maintain a neutral pelvic position with a straight and upright back, the vertebrae in your back are nicely aligned. This takes a lot of pressure off of your spine and back muscles, which can reduce back pain.

 The study that advocates sitting in a 135-degree position suggests that such a position places less strain on your low back because it minimizes the amount of spinal disc movement that occurs. We don’t believe that this reclined posture is ideal for a number of reasons.

Diagram from the aformentioned study, advocating a reclined seated position.  Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6187080.stm

Diagram from the aformentioned study, advocating a reclined seated position. Note that LUMOback recommends a more upright seated posture. 
Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6187080.stm


First, it is very difficult to maintain. Your back still needs to be straight in a reclined position for this position to be beneficial. While a well designed reclining chair at home might offer adequate support, most chairs make it difficult to sit in a reclined position without collapsing your lower back into a harmful kyphotic, or slouchy, position.

Second, it causes neck and upper back strain. As shown in the above image of a 135 degree reclining position, there is a huge tendency to jut your neck forward and out of line with your spine in order to read or look at a screen.  A 135 degree position, while comfortable if you are lounging and keeping your neck and upper back aligned and supported with the lower back, is not a functional position for us to work for a sustained period of time.  In an office setting, you’re likely to have to crane your neck to see your computer screen and strain your upper back and shoulders to reach a keyboard. Thus, any potential lower back benefits of a reclined position are outweighed by the negative impacts on your upper back and neck.

Upright posture is the most functional for

Upright posture with a neutral pelvic position is the most functional for office work.

The neutral pelvis and lumbar spinal posture we are advocating is most functional for the longest period of time, making it useful in doing the desk work and computer work that has become the mainstay of many of our occupations.

Click here to learn how to get into good posture.

I am by no means saying that you need to ditch your comfy recliner at home or that sinking into a plush couch for a little while is necessarily harmful. However, we believe that maintaining upright posture with a neutral pelvis is one of the best and easiest ways to promote good back health, especially in a work environment, and to improve appearance and confidence.

So remember: sit straight, stand tall, and keep moving!

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About Tansy

Tansy wears research, public relations and partnership hats at Lumo BodyTech. She is passionate about harnessing technology to support personal behavior change. Tansy’s background is in wearable tech and social entrepreneurship. She graduated from the University of Colorado with a BA in Social Marketing.


  • anigmha

    So we can’t use the backrest? Correct me if I’m wrong, but that seems bad for your back in a 9 to 5 office job.

    • LUMObackTeam

      We advocate staying as active as possible throughout the workday, but while seated, it’s best to sit towards the front of your chair with your feet flat on the floor and your back straight and supported by your engaged core muscles.

      • LUMObackTeam

        We know this can be tough at first, but it gets easier as your muscles get stronger!

        • stephen

          What are your views about sitting on an exercise ball while working at the computer?

      • helpmeback

        Wait so I shouldn’t be sitting at the 135 degree angle pictured above?

        I had surgery recently for a herniated disc and I’m looking for the most optimal position to sit so I don’t herniate it more, or even a another disc.

        • Fred Smith
          Fred Smith

          helpmeback, see my reply below down the page.
          Fred Smith

  • stephen

    I’d be interested to know your views about sitting on an exercise ball as opposed to a chair?

    • LUMObackTeam

      Sitting on an exercise ball can help you strengthen your core by challenging your stability, but you still need to make sure to maintain a neutral pelvis. It’s still possible to slouch on an exercise ball if you aren’t careful!

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  • PRO FIT Solutions
    PRO FIT Solutions

    I am an Ergonomic Consultant/Athletic Trainer and was happy to see the work you promote and the benefits of good posture. The study reporting the 135 degree sitting angle has created more harm than good. I recently was asked to help a company make a large chair purchase and was invited to the chair company for their sales pitch. They used this 135 degree study to illustrate the benefits of their chair etc. It was a compelling sales pitch however I brought up the aspect that most of our employees are suffering from neck and upper back pain. This particular chair would drive us backward. The company listened to my strong recommendations and we went with a more appropriate chair. Bottom line I wanted to thank you for the work you are doing to promote good posture and will be referencing your in future! Thanks

    • LUMObackTeam

      Thanks for sharing! That’s great to hear. We’d love to stay in touch!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith

      I believe the arguments against the 135 degree angle sitting are not based on using the correct chair and equipment for the job. With the right set up, I believe it to be superior.

      I have deteriorated pads between S1 and S2 vertebrae and use a standing desk that adjusts to a sitting desk. I alternate between sitting and standing. When I sit, I sit reclined at 135 degrees. The chair has a long back and an adjustable headrest so my spine is perfectly straight neck to butt. The entire chair tilts back a bit too, not just the backrest. My monitors are raised and tilted downwards so they are perpendicular to my line of sight. My keyboard tray also adjusts/tilts to accommodate my arms pointing a bit upwards from the incline (this keeps my elbows at 90 degrees.). My footrest also compensates for the raised feet because of the incline.

      So basically, my body adheres to all other (accepted) ergonomic recommendations, with the exception that my weight is partly supported by my back.

      So, there’s much more involved to actually putting the incline into practice than meets the eye. Employers run for the hills when they find out what it costs to do this and will only provide this set up if your doctor recommends it.

      No one can convince a corporation to implement the incline set up as a standard. It’s cost prohibitive to them. And because of that, it won’t take off anytime soon. The employees lose.

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  • abismorkal

    Nice blog.Thanks for share with us such a nice piece of information.

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  • CB

    Advocating for a straight spine is a misnomer — better to think tall, but not straight. A neutral pelvis facilitates the natural lumbar curve and thoracic and cervical curves above it. A healthy spine retains its natural S curve to better absorb shock and remain fluid to rotate, flex and extend. Good alignment = ears stacked over shoulders, shoulders over hips, while retaining the natural curves in the back.

  • Mary Ann Samuels
    Mary Ann Samuels

    I totally agree. I had slip disc on my cervical 5 & 6 last September. Doctor said it was because of the long hours of working sitting in front of my computer and lesser activity. At first I just suffered a painful neck and back pain, then eventually I had slip disc. It was really painful, I would not want to experience the pain again as it is very unbearable. Right now, I am fully recovered due to conservative therapy and currently I am again working in front of my computer as this is how I earn for my living, however I am more health conscious – I always take breaks and move a lot during the whole duration of my work with the big help of my sit stand desk. If I had known of this way before, I would have not had that very unforgettable painful experience.

  • Miller

    Hey , you are doing a great job. I love your show and lately your website has been a real help for me.

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  • Gary

    I am using an exercise ball while sitting as I had developed lower back pain due to a non-adjustable chair. From my experience, you tend to slouch on a balance ball also after some time as you are immersed in work. However, if you make a conscious effort to just bounce or move your hips on the ball after every 10 to 15 minutes it will be a big relief for your back and your core will become stronger. Initially for the first few days, I developed a pain in my upper back, as there was no backrest. After a couple of weeks, this pain was gone as my back muscles became stronger and began to support my back without any support. Make sure to choose a right sized ball since you want to make sure that your hips are at the same level as your knees and your feet firmly planted on the ground. I have a 75-inch ball and I am around 6 feet tall. For smaller persons a 55 or 65 inch ball would be good.

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