Spinal Cord Damage at Zero mph
I’m not talking about getting rear ended at a traffic light. I’m talking about sitting.
Sitting in front of a computer at work, on a toilet, at a table for a meal, at a desk in school, sitting in the car-bus-plane-train-bike to get to the next chair... you get the point - we sit a lot!
We are damaging our spines... and our knees, our shoulders, our feet, etc.
Could sitting also be a cause of other problems?
Carpal tunnel syndrome? Yep
Stiff Neck? Yep
How can all of these problems be caused by sitting?
Let start with the basics. Chairs and the ground are rigid structures that do not budge. When you are sitting, you are literally being squashed by gravity and the weight of your head and upper-body into a rigid surface.
(Picture to right)
When you are standing upright your discs and bones can tolerate lots of weight because of the shape of your spine.
However, when you sit, your spine is in a deformed position. The weight of the world, so to speak, is now on the discs and the joints of your spine. Muscles and ligaments are also being stressed in weird positions. And your body adapts to this position.
Over time your discs collapse, some muscles get shorter, others get longer, and your joints change shape. Not just at the spine, but all over your body.
You might have some pain when sitting but what happens when you stand up and try to move? Uh-Oh. Those discs, muscles, ligaments and joints can’t move the way they need to and you feel stiff, achy and eventually you will have pain.
Our bodies are great movers, not sitters and the more you sit the faster you will lose your ability to move. Just take a look back up at those pictures of sitting. They may be a little extreme to show a point but can you now see how sitting may cause some serious problems?
You may develop headaches from the stress on the neck and upper back muscles. You may have foot and knee pain from tightness in your lower body. You may get carpal tunnel syndrome from the tightness in your shoulders and arms. And that doesn’t even count the low back pain, hip pain and shoulder problems that come from poor posture and weakness developed over time.
One of the most common problems we see from too much sitting on your derriere is weakness of the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus, the butt muscles. But you don’t have to suffer from DBS (dead butt syndrome) or any other problems of sitting if you follow these guidelines:
Find non-sitting activities that are interesting and fun: walking, hiking, dancing or flying a kite to name a few. The more you incorporate physical activity into your daily activities the less time you will spend sitting.
When you do have to sit, sit in the chair appropriately: feet flat on the floor, hip width apart, low back supported by the chair. If you can’t sit all the way back into the chair without rounding your low back use bolsters or pillows to sit supported or sit up tall unsupported using your muscles. The goal is to maintain an erect spine with good head/neck position.
If you have to sit for long periods of time (school, work, travel) be sure to do the following prep/recovery strategies before and after.
Use a Foam Roller to relieve stress on your back
Stretch your spine in all 3 planes to relieve low back strain
4. Break up your sitting. If you have to sit for long periods of time, stand up every 20 minutes to stretch and move around. No more binge watching The Walking Dead. Go for a short walk or do something active between episodes.
Your body needs to move well AND move often (Thanks Gray Cook) to be healthy. Sitting gets in the way of both of those. Sitting improperly, too long, and too often is a disaster for your body. Keep your body moving and enjoy life’s great pleasures for years to come.
WHY ARE YOU STILL SITTING THERE READING THIS?
and have great healthy movement for life,
Neil and the Level 3 Fitness team