A man with lower back pain

Don’t Just Sit There

We know sitting too much is not a great strategy but sometimes it happens.  You may work at a desk or just have a long weekend of binging on TV planned but what exactly goes wrong in our bodies when we sit for extended periods of the day?

Foggy Brain

Moving muscles pumps fresh blood and oxygen triggering the release of all sorts of brain and mood enhancing chemicals.  When we are sedentary for a long time, everything slows, including brain function.

So, if you really want to see the entire season of your favorite show in one day, stand up and move every so often.  Challenge yourself to do ten pushups or sit-ups everytime your favorite character says something you like and go for a walk between episodes.  The movement will help you from head to toe. 

back strain

If most of your sitting occurs at a desk at work, craning your neck forward toward a keyboard or tilting your head to cradle the phone while typing can strain the cervical vertebrae and lead to imbalances.

Make sure to step away from your desk. Your brain and your body need it. Remember to counterbalance long calls by switching ears or, better yet, use a headset

Sore Shoulders and Back

The neck doesn’t slouch alone.  Slumping forward overextends the shoulder and back muscles as well, particularly the trapezius, which connects the neck and shoulders.

Stretch your arms over your head, move side to side, and just try to stay loose.  A few stretches during the day can alleviate sore muscles at night.

Inflexible Spine & Disk Damage  

Spines that don’t move become inflexible and susceptible to damage in mundane activities such as when you reach for a cup of coffee or bend to tie a shoe.  When we move, soft disks between vertebrae expand and contract like sponges, soaking fresh blood and nutrients.  When we sit for prolonged times, these same disks are squashed unevenly and lose sponginess.  Collagen hardens around supporting tendons and ligaments.

People who sit more are at greater risk for herniated lumbar disks.  A muscle, called the Psoas, travels through the abdominal cavity, and when it tightens, it pulls the upper lumbar spine forward.  Upper body weight rests entirely on the ischial tuberosity (sitting bones) instead of being distributed along the arch of the spine.

Again, the answer is to just get up and move a bit.  Don’t use the elevator, take the stairs and keep the blood moving.  It’s the simple things we do each day that can save us from injury, pain and long-term degeneration.  

Muscle Degeneration: Mushy Abs, Tight Hips

When you stand, move, or even sit up straight, abdominal muscles keep you upright.  When you slump in a chair, they go unused.  Tight back muscles and wimpy abs form a posture-wrecking alliance that can exaggerate the spine’s natural arch with a condition called hyperlordosis or swayback.

Flexible hips help keep you balanced, but chronic sitters so rarely extend the hip flexors muscles in front that they become short and tight, limiting the range of motion and stride length.  Studies have found that decreased hip mobility is a primary reason elderly people tend to fall.

So, What’s a Body to Do?

Most musculoskeletal pain can be resolved with treatment.  If you have frequent headaches, neck, shoulder, back or hip pain of chronic nature (present in some form over six months), physical therapy can help. 

Adaptive changes in posture leading to chronic pain can often be reversed.   Physical Therapists are specialists in restoring the natural balances of muscle length and strength for optimal function and pain-free existence. 

TPMG has two convenient offices located at 860 Omni and in the New Town Medical Center, Discovery Park in Williamsburg.  We specialize in musculoskeletal treatments across the spectrum of age and activity level.   Call us directly at 345-2512 Williamsburg or 223-9403 Newport News office.

 

Adapted from http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/warning-sitting-can-kill-you.html