Changes in mechanical load and extensor muscle activity in the cervico-thoracic spine induced by sitting posture modification

Ergonomics. 2011 Feb;54(2):179-86. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2010.544765.


The influence of whole body sitting posture on cervico-thoracic posture, mechanical load and extensor muscle activity was examined in 23 asymptomatic adults. Cervical and upper thoracic extensor muscle activity measured in guided slouched and lumbo-pelvic neutral postures was normalised to that measured in a self-selected habitual posture. Head and neck posture and gravitational load moment measurements were obtained in each posture. Sagittal head translation, upper cervical extension and load moment were significantly greater in the slouched posture (p < 0.001). Contrasting patterns of cervical and thoracic extensor activity were observed in the slouched and neutral postures, with cervical extensor activity 40% higher in the slouched posture (p < 0.0001). Thoracic extensor activity was significantly higher in the lumbo-pelvic neutral posture than the habitual posture (p = 0.002). The significant changes in extensor muscle activity with postural modification appear to be induced by the associated change in mechanical load moment of the head. STATEMENT OF RELEVANCE: More neutral sitting postures reduce the demand on the cervical extensor muscles and modify the relative contribution of cervical and thoracic extensors to the control of head and neck posture. Postures that promote these patterns of muscular activity may reduce cervical spine loading and the development of posture-related neck pain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cervical Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Gravitation
  • Head
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Occupational Health
  • Posture / physiology*
  • Stress, Mechanical*
  • Thoracic Vertebrae / physiology*
  • Weight-Bearing / physiology