Back in the Game

I’ll just toss out a story I have on seating and lumbar support.  Before owning the MX5, I spent 10 years in an Acura TL.  Its lumbar support was pretty pitiful – just a lever that would push a bar forward in the seat.  But still, I used it from day one because I heard that lumbar support was good.

A few months after owning the car, my back went out while I was standing up in the office.  I had never had back problems before and at that time, I wasn’t really overweight.  That injury put me out of commission for a week and changed my life forever.  Those of you that have had back failures know you are never the same afterwards.  But at the time I never considered why it happened.  It was a mystery.

Almost 10 years later, I had another significant back failure (and blogged it).  Another week of lying in bed, afraid to move at all.  I attribute this failure to poor riding posture on my then-new motorcycle.  The hump for the passenger seat was pushing very hard into my lower back.  Still though, I never wondered why my back failed to begin with.

At this time in my life, I’m doing a 150-mile commute a day and working 9 hours at a desk – nothing but sitting.  This is literally destroying my back.  The pain was constant, I was popping Advil for days straight, and I was hating life.  After a business trip for a few days, I was feeling better but when I got in the car, within 10 minutes my back was killing me.  I was cursing Acura for having such crappy lumbar support, not like some cars like the old Ford Taurus with the inflatable bladder.

I fiddled around with the seat positions for a while and found two things that turned me around completely.  One, sitting with my legs together.  I used to drive more (ahem) spread-eagle and the bolsters on the seat were pushing on my hamstrings and the sciatic nerve.  Two, turn off the lumbar support.  This shocked me.  After ten years of leaving that bar pushed against my back, I found I never needed it.  In fact, I’m inclined to think that it caused my first, life-changing back failure.  It makes sense that the same pushing of the motorcycle seat and the Acura lumbar support have the same result.

When I was planning the purchase of my MX5, I read as much as I could on the seats and it’s kind of a love-it-or-hate-it thing.  I found a store that sells inflatable lumbar support and budgeted to buy one (at around $100).  After a few weeks in the new seat, with proper seating posture, I don’t think I’m going to need it at all.  I have a slight concern about the side bolsters pushing against my hips, but if I flex my glutes, I can push myself up and the pressure is relieved.  This is kind of motivating for me to (re)develop those muscles that have atrophied from years of deskwork.

So, if you have back pain and are constantly searching for better or stronger lumbar support, maybe you don’t need it.  Maybe the lumbar support is what is causing the back pain, as it was for me.

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