What happens when we sit?
Sitting for long periods of time can put postural stress on your body and lead to low back pain, neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, upper back pain, and many other musculoskeletal issues.
How does this happen?
After sitting for a while (1-2 hours), we begin to slouch. This creates a sustained load on the spine, mostly in the lumbosacral (low back) area. Ligaments and posterior elements of the intervertebral discs are part of the structural support of the spine. When these are stressed (like when we sit for hours on end), a concept called "creep" sets in. Creep is a deformation of viscoelastic material (ligaments and discs), but can also be applied to muscles. Even after 20-30 minutes of sitting, the ligaments, discs and muscles can start to relax, stretch or shorten into their new position. Over time, repetition of this sitting posture can cause the temporary deformation of these structure to become a permanent one. Because the ligaments, muscle and discs are now at abnormal lengths, your spine is no more unstable, painful and thus more suseptable to injury.
How do I stop this from happening?
There are a few postural relief positions and exercises that can go a long way to preventing or easing the strain that sitting for long hours puts on your body.
1. Bruegger's stretch:
I call this the anti-sitting position. Brueggers stretch helps to counteract the muscles, ligaments that tend to become stretched out and weakened due to postural stress.
Sit or perch at the edge of your chair. You should feel the "sit bones" just around where the top of your legs meet your butt cheeks.
Hold your head up high. Imagine a string fixed at the crown of your head pulling you toward the sky.
Spread your legs slightly apart to the sides
Turn your legs out slightly
Rest your weight on your legs and feet and relax your abdominal muscles
Tilt your pelvis forward and raise your breastbone up.
Turn your hands palms-up
Turn your arms slightly outward
Hold this position and take deep "belly" breaths for 10 seconds
2. Get up and move!
Set and alarm on your phone to get up and move AT LEAST one time per hour. It does not have to be much, simply stand, stretch and walk a circle around your chair to give your joints a break.
These two simple moves can help aleviate postural tension and prevent or decrease many types of musculoskeletal pain!