Ok, so we are all guilty of it; this sitting thing. We sit on the train to work, sit at our desks all day, sit in front of our TVs glued to Married at First Sight, sit whilst intagraming “Kylie Jenner pregnancy” pics, sit whilst watching the latest “how to tape a thumb” video on the Evolve Facebook page ;) and so on… but whilst we are engrossed in our screens and laze away on the couch, what is actually happening to our posture? How is this simple daily activity affecting our bodies?
Aside from all the scary things we hear about the increased risk of diseases such as Diabetes and heart attack when it comes to being sedentary, we need to talk about the effect sitting has on your structural system; your muscles.
Based on clinical experience, we see a lot of people coming in for treatment of their neck and shoulder pain and generally, these problems are often attributed to poor posture as a result of prolonged sitting.
On assessment we note overactivity of the trapezius muscles (thick, rubbery and dehydrated tissue at the top of the shoulder), winging shoulder blades, forward head carriage or “poke neck” posture and a shortening/tightening of the pec muscles at the front of the chest; basically, an increased kyphotic posture, presenting as a rounded upper back.
Sitting also decreases the lumbar lordosis or in simple terms, the curve of your lower back. When standing this curve is relatively pronounced, whereas when you sit, the curve tends to straighten and in so doing, increases the pressure on your lumbar discs (those little squishy shock absorbers between your vertebrae). Anyone with lumbar disc issues can attest to the discomfort one can feel when sitting for a decent amount of time. Prolonged sitting also leads to tightening of the hip flexors which is a whole other issue in itself when it comes to lower back pain!
These musculoskeletal changes result in tension headaches, burning or aching sensations in the upper shoulder region, poor scapulo-humeral rhythm (clicky shoulders), discomfort in the lower back and an overall sense of feeling fatigued and weighed down. It’s even been suggested in some recent studies that this rounded, slumped style of posture we inhabit when sitting can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety and even aggression! If any of the above sounds like you, it’s time to get up and get moving!
So how do we tackle this problem when we are forced to sit at work all day? Easy! Set a timer on your phone or have a sticky note on your computer screen that says “stand up”, “take a walk” or “have a stretch.” Set your alarm for every half an hour. Walk to the bathroom even if you don’t really need to go, stretch your pecs in a doorway to promote an opening up of the chest (essentially counteracting that kyphotic, curved posture), work at a stand up desk for the next 20 minutes if your workplace allows and maybe even consider an ergonomic assessment of your work space where possible.
And when you get home? Lie on the floor, roll up a towel, place it lengthways down your spine and open your arms. Lie there for 10 minutes and let the effect of gravity do its work! Sit on a swiss ball instead of on your “too soft” lounge and consider starting a really simple postural retraining program of stretching a strengthening to combat those aches and pains.
If any of the above rings alarm bells for you (or your hunched over teenage children even) and you want more information on how to combat the effects of sitting, call the clinic and one of our skilled practitioners will be happy to objectively assess your areas of concern and create a plan for you moving forward. Prevention is key!
Check out these studies:
Study of the relationship between Kyphosis, anxiety, depression and aggression of high school boy students
Effect of an exercise program for posture correction on musculoskeletal pain