Because most car seats are extremely badly designed, with no thought given to supporting the spine in good posture, pain free driving is an unknown to many drivers. Two of the most prestigious cars are the worst offenders. I mentioned their names on the website. However on legal advice withdrew them.
Car manufacturers improve their products on a continuous basis but completely ignore seat design. The proof of this is that after I published my book “The Engineering Solution to Suffering Back Pain” I was invited to a seminar held in London by the car industry attended by 67 car designers from around the world. The title of the seminar was “Automotive Comfort.” I had a working prototype of a new design of seat that that within minutes could be adjusted to the contour of any spine thereby guaranteeing perfect posture and pain free driving. Incredibly they refused to even examine the design. (We have measured the spinal curvature of some 17,000 back sufferers when sitting in perfect posture and using this information to manufacture office, home and car seat moulds. The success is 95%. Success is sitting many hours pain free; 7-8 hours at an office desk, 3-4 hours driving.)
Before attending the seminar I did a quick 15 minute survey of 69 vehicles turning from Exchequer Street into South William Street. For cars the average distance of a car drivers head to the headrest was 8 inches, for vans / lorries the average was 12 inches. Every driver was totally unprotected from whiplash injury. Last year Aviva Insurance announced that 80% of all car crash injuries are whiplash. Our custom made car sear mould prevents whiplash. Both the RSA and the AA wrote me polite letters thanking me for this information.
I have written a report explaining exactly how whiplash is caused and how it can be prevented. Feel free to contact me on this or any other questions on car seats.
ustomer: Is an operation the right treatment for a slipped disc?
C.C. (Colm Campbell): I would advise extreme caution. The success rate is extremely low. The latest information on low back pain, published in the August 1998 edition of Scientific American, and written by Dr Richard Dayo of the University of Washington says “the actual proportion of all back sufferers who are surgical candidates is only about 2 %”.
Customer: So what can you do?
C.C.: I eliminate the main cause of back pain.
Customer: What’s that?
C.C.: Bad posture.
Customer: How can I eliminate bad posture, the main cause of back pain?
C.C. (Colm Campbell): I’ve designed this piece of equipment for measuring spinal curvature.
C.C.: I put the person sitting in the measuring chair and gently push the spine from it’s original position, as indicated by the dotted line, into the correct sitting position by means of the sliding bars. I make a cardboard template of the spine, in this perfect posture position, and from this the back of the chair is made to precisely conform to the person’s back shape. The measuring chair also gives me the information to make the arm height, depth, height, and width of seat to exactly match the person’s physical specifications.
Customer: What’s this perfect posture?
C.C.: I define perfect posture as that position which puts the least stress on the spine.
Customer: Why do you have to measure? Why can’t one chair do for all?
C.C: Every spine has its own S shape which is unique to it. The shape of a human spine is as unique as a fingerprint. Even people of the same size and build have different shaped spines.
Customer: How does bad posture cause back pain?
Colm Campbell: Take a wooden ruler and bend it. When it’s released it whips back into position so fast you can hardly see it. The reason is that when something rigid is bent stress is built up along its length, and releasing it releases the stress. The stress is greatest down low where it is held. If I continue to bend the ruler it will break exactly in this position. It’s exactly the same with the spine. Sitting with bad posture means the spine is slumped into a forward “C” position and this puts enormous stress on the discs, particularly on the lumbar ones. This is where most back problems occur.
I’ll give you a simple slogan. It should be nailed on the notice board of every office around the world, and domestically should replace the “home sweet home” slogan. If people would always bear it in mind it would greatly reduce the incidence of back pain. It’s this:
“C” = Bad Posture; “S” = Perfect Posture
Customer: What causes neck pain?
C.C. (Colm Campbell): If you follow me I’ll show you the way you and ninety nine percent of people sit at an office desk. It’s the reason why the vast majority end up with back pain.
(C.C. walks over to a desk, sits on an office chair, and simulates somebody crouching over a keyboard.)
C.C.: The C position. Does this look familiar? (The customer nods again)
C.C.: As you can see I’m bent over the desk like a bent wooden ruler. This puts huge pressure on my lumbar spine.
C.C.: Let’s examine the neck.
(C.C. sits well back into the chair with his spine supported right up to the nape of his neck, elbows perfectly supported, arms gently sloping downwards, as he pretends to key)
C.C.: I’m now sitting with perfect posture. The S position.
Customer: How do you know that?
C.C.: Because the chair was made for me using Spinal System-S. As my head is resting on the headrest the stress on my neck is very low.
(C.C. again bends over the desk)
C.C.: The stress on my neck is now huge. Do you know why?
Customer: Because you’re bent over the desk.
C.C.: Yes. But I’ll demonstrate the reason. Hold this upright with the thumb and index finger.
(C. C. gives the customer a hard backed book. The customer does as requested.)
C.C.: Now bend your arm slowly forward keeping the book in the same plane. (When the book reaches an angle of about forty five degrees from the vertical the customer has difficulty holding on to it.)
C.C.: The reason you are losing control is because a moment ago the weight was acting straight down your arm. Now the weight is still acting downwards but it’s displaced from the fulcrum, the place where you’re holding it, by about eight inches. This causes a huge leverage effect, the weight multiplied by eight inches. It’s the same with your head. The weight of the book is very low, less than a pound. But your head is a large percentage of your overall body weight. The average weight of the human head is around 14 pounds. When the head is vertically over the spine the stress is at a minimum. But when you bend forward the weight of your head multiplied by the distance from your neck results in enormous stress in your neck. And a neck pain can be a lot more difficult to cure than one in the lumbar spine.
Customer: Why is this?
C.C.: The lumbar discs are massive in comparison with the cervical. And the cervical are moving all the time. They get little chance to rest.
Customer: Are Armrests useful in preventing back pain?
C.C. (Colm Campbell): Armrests are extremely important. For two reasons. Firstly, when you are sitting with your elbows properly supported you are taking a considerable amount of weight off your spine and transferring it down your arms. Secondly, in an office situation, when you are keying without armrests, both of your arms are suspended in space and this puts stress on your neck. Keying with proper armrests prevents this stress.
Customer: Can you guarantee that your chairs will resolve my back pain?
C.C. (Colm Campbell): No. I can’t guarantee anything.
Customer: But will the S position get rid of my pain?
C.C.: When the chair is used correctly in the majority of cases the result is the relief of pain.
Customer: What do you mean by correctly?
C.C.: You must sit with your bottom right back in the chair and with your spine supported right up to your neck, and your elbows resting on the armrests. And, oh yes, I forgot to mention, working at an office desk, unless you are extremely tall, use a footrest.
Customer: Can a footrest improve my posture?
C.C. (Colm Campbell): The height of the average desk is around 27 inches. This means a person of average height must sit quite high in order to work with arms gently sloping downwards to the desk or keyboard. This means sitting with knees considerably below the hips. The result of this is a tendency for the lower body to drag the upper body forward into a C position. Using a footrest raises the knees and tilts the person backwards to a better sitting position.
Customer: What height of footrest should I use?
C.C.: You’re average height. I’d recommend a four inch high one. A taller person would need something in the region of two inches. The guiding rule is you should be sitting with your knees in line with your hips or slightly above. There are exceptions of course.
Customer: Like what?
C.C.: Many people have great difficulty in rising from the sitting to the standing position. So sitting height is of the utmost importance. The higher a person sits the easier it is to rise. But this means their knees would be lower than their hips. People with hip problems are a good example.
Customer: Somebody told me you should always sit with your knees way above your hips. Many cars are like this.
C.C.: Sitting with knees too far above the hips reduces the angle between the spine and thighs. Anything below ninety degrees puts tremendous stress on the lower spine and can tweak the sciatic resulting in pain which, in my own personal experience, is even greater than back pain. You mentioned car seats. They are well engineered with all sorts of clever adjustments. But they totally neglect the seat’s main function. To support the spine in good posture. Almost all car seats appear to be designed to make sure drivers sit in the C position. And the whole thing is compounded when using the clutch and brake. Pressing on the pedals transmits large forces up the legs to the lumbar spine.
Customer: Should you always sit with your knees way above your hips? Many cars are like this.
C.C. (Colm Campbell): Sitting with knees too far above the hips reduces the angle between the spine and thighs. Anything below ninety degrees puts tremendous stress on the lower spine and can tweak the sciatic resulting in pain which, in my own personal experience, is even greater than back pain. You mentioned car seats. They are well engineered with all sorts of clever adjustments. But they totally neglect the seat’s main function. To support the spine in good posture. Almost all car seats appear to be designed to make sure drivers sit in the C position. And the whole thing is compounded when using the clutch and brake. Pressing on the pedals transmits large forces up the legs to the lumbar spine.
Customer: I get a lot of pain when driving. Do you do anything for car seats?
C.C. (Colm Campbell): Yes. A car seat mould
C.C.: It’s a custom tailored back support that straps around the back of the existing car seat and is made using Spinal System-S. It converts the average badly designed C seat into one that’s an S.
Customer: Why call it a mould.
C.C.: A mould is something that preserves a shape.
Customer: The S shape.
Customer: What does the medical profession think of what you are doing?
C.C. (Colm Campbell): Quite a number of my customers are medical doctors. A lot of them refer patients, as do the alternative medical people like chiropractors, osteopaths, and acupuncturists. But they all try out their own particular expertise before applying logic.
Customer: What do you mean?
C.C.: Look at it like this. If you have a problem, the first step in solving it is to find the causes. You then apply the most obvious one and see if that works. If it doesn’t you try the next one, and so on. Would you agree?
Customer: Yep. I’d go along with that.
C.C.: My philosophy is that back pain, not directly caused by an accident, should be tackled first by making sure the sitting posture is correct. If after some time the pain persists, it means the cause may not be posture related. Then by all means investigate further. This approach is non invasive.
Customer: Do I have to choose one of the chairs from your catalogue? Can I have a custom made design?
C.C. (Colm Campbell): We do a range of chairs. The ones you see in front of you are some of the range. If you want a design we are not carrying give us a photo or a sketch and we’ll make it for you.
Customer: What chair do you recommend for my neck pain?
C.C. (Colm Campbell): The best type of chair, particularly for you with a neck problem, is a recliner. It’s really three chairs in one. You probably sit upright then, like the majority of men, after a period of time you get uneasy and start shifting from one buttock to the next until eventually your bottom moves forward in the seat and away from any support in your lumbar spine. This position puts great stress on your neck.
Customer: How the hell do you know that?
C.C.: I’ve been observing this for many years. Most women can sit for several hours at a time without moving. Men start fidgeting about after a much shorter period.
C.C.: I think women have better designed undercarriages. Anyway, when you get the squirming urge, in a recliner you just simply tilt the chair back. This relieves the uneasy feeling by transferring pressure to a different part of your body. And so on.
Customer: Yeah. But hang on. By doing this isn’t the S tilted to a different angle?
C.C.: Without sounding condescending, that’s a very intelligent question. You’re absolutely right. But look at the Swedish diagram again. The more you go to a reclining position the less the stress becomes. With the recliners we make, as you move from one position to the next, the spine and thighs are fixed. They don’t move relative to each other. So no matter how you sit you are always in the S position.
Customer: What’s the best angle to sit at to prevent back pain?
C.C. (Colm Campbell): It depends on what you are doing. An office chair would be at five degrees back from the vertical (95 degrees) because it’s a working chair. I wouldn’t make you a chair for the home at this rake. It’s too upright. The tendency would be for you to slump forward into the dreaded C position. The average home chair would be 10 degrees back from the vertical (100 degrees). There are exceptions of course. I recently made an office chair for a Professor of Anatomy. She can only sit without pain when the rake is at 85 (five degrees forward of the vertical).