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Spine J. 2017 Feb;17(2):183-189. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2016.08.026. Epub 2016 Aug 22.

Differences in erect sitting and natural sitting spinal alignment-insights into a new paradigm and implications in deformity correction.

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University Orthopaedics, Hand and Reconstructive Microsurgery (UOHC), National University Health System, 1E Kent Ridge Rd, NUHS Tower Block Level 11, Singapore. Electronic address:
University Orthopaedics, Hand and Reconstructive Microsurgery (UOHC), National University Health System, 1E Kent Ridge Rd, NUHS Tower Block Level 11, Singapore.



Sitting spinal alignment is increasingly recognized as a factor influencing strategy for deformity correction. Considering that most individuals sit for longer hours in a "slumped" rather than in an erect posture, greater understanding of the natural sitting posture is warranted.


This study aimed to investigate the differences in sagittal spinal alignment between two common sitting postures: a natural, patient-preferred posture; and an erect, investigator-controlled posture that is commonly used in alignment studies.


This is a randomized, prospective study of 28 young, healthy patients seen in a tertiary hospital over a 6-month period.


Twenty-eight patients (24 men, 4 women), with a mean age of 24 years (range 19-38), were recruited for this study. All patients with first episode of lower back pain of less than 3 months' duration were included. The exclusion criteria consisted of previous spinal surgery, radicular symptoms, red flag symptoms, previous spinal trauma, obvious spinal deformity on forward bending test, significant personal or family history of malignancy, and current pregnancy.


Radiographic measurements included sagittal vertical axis (SVA), lumbar lordosis (LL), thoracolumbar angle (TL), thoracic kyphosis (TK), and cervical lordosis (CL). Standard spinopelvic parameters (pelvic incidence, pelvic tilt [PT], and sacral slope) and sagittal apex and end vertebrae were also measured.


Basic patient demographics (age, gender, ethnicity) were recorded. Lateral sitting whole spine radiographs were obtained using a slot scanner in the imposed erect and the natural sitting posture. Statistical analyses of the radiographical parameters were performed comparing the two sitting postures using chi-squared tests for categorical variables and paired t tests for continuous variables.


There was forward SVA shift between the two sitting postures by a mean of 2.9 cm (p<.001). There was a significant increase in CL by a mean of 11.62° (p<.001), and TL kyphosis by a mean of 11.48° (p<.001), as well as a loss of LL by a mean of 21.26° (p<.001). The mean PT increased by 17.68° (p<.001). The entire thoracic and lumbar spine has the tendency to form a single C-shaped curve with the apex moving to L1 (p=.002) vertebra in the majority of patients.


In a natural sitting posture, the lumbar spine becomes kyphotic and contributes to a single C-shaped sagittal profile comprising the thoracic and the lumbar spine. This is associated with an increase in CL and PT, as well as a constant SVA. These findings lend insight into the body's natural way of energy conservation using the posterior ligamentous tension band while achieving sitting spinal sagittal balance. It also provides information on one of the possible causes of proximal junctional kyphosis or proximal junctional failure.


Deformity; Kyphosis; Lordosis; Natural sitting; Sagittal spinal alignment; Standing

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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