As modern technology continues to evolve it seems that people are sitting more and more. With smart phones and tablets such a big part of everyday life many of the activities that used to be physical are now played out without having to move much at all. It’s not uncommon for someone to get out of bed, sit in a car on the way to work, sit all day at a desk, sit in the car on the way home, and then sit all evening watching television or playing with their smart phone.
The Sitting Epidemic
Now clearly starting a crusade against sitting is not the correct answer. Even in my profession where I’m up and moving around while working with patients, I still have the same 40 minute commute to work, and I still have to sit at the computer to get things done such as notes and ranting about how bad sitting is for you. The answer is not as simple as refusing to sit, as for some people it is an inevitable part of their lives, and to be honest, those who stand all day have many just as many issues as those who sit. Many visits in my office relate to back pain in which work place stresses are the main cause. Although there are many different causes of work related back pain, sitting is by far the most common cause and risk factor.
Even if your chair feels comfortable and has been deemed “ergonomically sound”, it is still a bad idea to maintain a prolonged static posture. Even the most advanced office chairs can’t reverse the force of gravity. Aside from back pain, prolonged sitting can tighten your hip flexors and hamstrings, leaving you prone to injury when you exercise.
What to Do If You Have a Sedentary Job
The reason sitting so much is damaging to the spine is because sitting places almost twice the stress on your spine as it does when simply standing. This is because instead of forces moving through the hips and down to the feet to make contact with the ground, these forces stop at the pelvis which is contacting the ground through your chair. Furthermore, If you’re the are hunched forward in your chair, let’s say because you are tired or can’t read the screen, the problem gets even worse. When the shoulders round forward the spine makes a “C” shape, removing the natural curve in the lower back. This causes added stress and forces on the intervertebral discs of the low back, and can wear down this joint and lead to early degeneration. Does this sound like you? If so, here are some tips to help you combat the stresses of work and ward off future ailments associated with sitting.
1) Sit more forward on your chair and keep a slight arch in your back to remove that “C” posture. You can also retract the shoulders and maintain better upright posture by first shrugging the shoulders, rolling them back by pinching the shoulder blades together, and then letting the shoulders drop from the shrugged position.
2) Force yourself to get up and get out of your chair at least once every 30 minutes. Take 2 minutes to walk around the office, do some light stretches or just stand, but make sure you get up. If you have access to a standing desk use it for a portion of each day. The key is to take short movement breaks everyday so your muscles, tendons, and ligaments stay loose and flexible.
3) Make sure to keep a healthy and consistent wellness visit scheduled with your chiropractor. If you are asymptomatic and free from any significant ailments, typically a standing visit every 4-6 weeks is all you need to keep your body from tightening up and breaking down from your workplace stresses. All too often, we see patients who wait months, even years to until their pain is so bad that they cannot function before coming into the office to seek help. By keeping a regularly scheduled maintenance visit, these scenarios are very often avoided. On top of that, it just makes sense to get a maintenance visit in to ensure your body is working properly. You wouldn’t hold of 12,000 miles to change the oil in your car until it overheats and fuses a cylinder would you?
For more information on workplace related stresses, or have your workplace evaluated, schedule a visit with Dr. Detweiler.
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