When we think of things that are relaxing–watching television, having a beer, chatting with friends and having dinner–we are sitting down during all of these activities. This leads us to think of sitting as a good and relaxing activity that we would love to do more often. But when you really think about it, all of us, sit entirely too much on a daily basis.
It’s something to which we’ve grown accustomed either by necessity through work or for lack of any better alternatives. Whatever the reason, we now know that sitting for too long can wreak havoc on the body, specifically on the back. Sitting down, on our collective butts, can cause muscle and structural imbalances that contribute to neck, back and shoulder pain.
I know what you’re thinking and it’s true that if you have an office job sitting is a necessary evil. But later in this article we’ll discuss things you can do to sit a little less often. Now let’s talk about why it is so important that you at least attempt to relieve back pressure caused by prolonged sitting.
How Bad Can It Be?
This is a question I get all the time because, surprisingly, very few recognize just how damaging prolonged sitting can be. Just to give you an idea of just how bad it can be, consider that these are all conditions that can develop thanks to your enforced sitting regimen:
- Flat glutes mean more than just having a flat butt because we’re talking about muscles here not just shape. Weak glutes will shut down from lack of use, which means that when you walk, play a sport or stand; your muscles are not participating.
- A displaced pelvis rotates awkwardly, which can cause severe lower back pain. A flared pelvis can rotate in any direction, sometimes in multiple and opposing directions on both sides of the pelvis. Correcting this problem can be costly and painful.
- Your hip flexors will be overused in order to stabilize the pelvis, which can cause them to stiffen and affect mobility. Furthermore they will prevent the glutes from working properly, which can be dangerous if they are already weakening.
- Sitting for a long period of time, and with incorrect posture can cause chronic back pain and compressed nerves that can cause sciatica.
What You Can Do
The good news is that there are steps you can take to make your job a little easier on the back. There are already so many reasons to not want to go to work, don’t add physical injury to the list. Think of it this way: you want to equate sitting with relaxing, not pain and this will help you keep your pain at a minimum.
Change up your sitting position frequently so that your spine doesn’t grow accustomed to an incorrect position. This doesn’t mean sit on one side of your butt then the other; it means having different settings on your desk chair and utilizing a large therapy ball to help strengthen your core and reduce tension off your back.
Stand up whenever you don’t need to be sitting. If you’re on the phone, reading notes, drafting a memo or spacing out, use that time to stand up. Even if it’s just a few minutes it will help, but you should aim to take 5 to 10 breaks every 60 to 75 minutes.
Use massage therapy or a foam roller to relieve stress from the hip flexors. A massage therapist can also help with muscle balance therapy.
Exercise & stretching will strengthen and loosen up your muscles, while also increasing the flow of blood rich in oxygen to the affected areas.
These are just a few things that you can do to prevent and treat back pain. Your job already takes up plenty of your time; don’t spend your free time in physical therapy.
Click here to get a list of the numerous physical conditions that develop over time from prolonged sitting, and what you can do to minimize their effects.
Written By: Updated: January 10,2009