Good Sitting Positions for Your Knees
Modern lifestyles are often dominated by sedentary activities, particularly in the workplace, where most jobs require stationary work behind a computer desk. Activities at home and during leisure time likewise frequently involve sitting. Improper positioning while seated can cause or aggravate knee pain and disrupt efficient blood circulation to the legs, particularly during periods of prolonged sitting. Keeping the knees in a neutral, properly aligned position relieves pressure and helps maintain knee health.
When seated, the thighs should be horizontal and the knees should be positioned at roughly the same level as the hips, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. It is also acceptable for the knees to be slightly higher than the hips. The aid of a footrest or a chair with adjustable height may help some individuals achieve the proper alignment. With an upright sitting posture such as this, the knees should be bent at an angle of approximately 90 degrees, with both feet flat on the floor, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
When possible, ergonomic guidelines for seated posture should also apply while driving or riding in a vehicle. Some vehicles that are very low to the ground or feature bucket-style seats can hinder the ability to properly support the knees, according to the Spine Center at Columbia University. The Cleveland Clinic reports that the knees should again be placed at the same or slightly higher level as the hips. During driving, the seat should be close enough to the wheel to accommodate a bend in the knees and to allow easy reach to the pedals.
Sitting in a chair that is too high can result in heightened pressure on the area behind the knees, or the popliteal fold, according to the Cornell Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group website. That pressure is an obstacle to blood circulation and puts increased strain on nearby nerves. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends choosing or adjusting a chair so that a slight downward slope allows the width of two or three fingers of space between the backs of knees and the seat cushion.
Continual sitting is harmful to knee health — and health in general — according to Mayo Clinic research reported in a 2011 "New York Times" story. Schedule breaks into a day chock full of sitting and use the time to stand up and briefly walk around. When standing up is not possible, Cleveland Clinic medical experts recommend changing seated positions every half-hour. Take a few moments to shift around in the seat and extend the legs momentarily to flex the knees. After a quick adjustment, return to a beneficial resting position that allows a roughly 90-degree knee angle. Continue to stretch the legs during prolonged sitting to improve blood flow and activate the leg muscles that support the knee.
- Occupational Safety & Health Administration: Computer Work Stations
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: How to Sit at a Computer
- Cleveland Clinic: Posture for a Healthy Back
- Columbia University Department of Neurological Surgery: Posture and Work Station Tips
- Cornell Human Factors and Ergonomics Research Group: Sitting and Chair Design
- The New York Times: Is Sitting a Lethal Activity?
Based in Los Angeles, Monica Stevens has been a professional writer since 2005. She covers topics such as health, education, arts and culture, for a variety of local magazines and newspapers. Stevens holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism, with a concentration in film studies, from Pepperdine University.