Many of us spend 6-8 hours sitting every day. Prolonged sitting can create both short and long term health problems. Not only can sitting for long periods of time bother your back but it can effect other systems in your body as well. You've heard the saying "if you don't use it, you lose it." Sitting all day leads to weakening of the muscles, particularly the legs and glutes. Without these muscles helping to stabilize your core, your back is at risk of injury and pain. Sitting can also cause your hip flexors to shorten. These muscles are attached to the lumbar spine (low back) and coupled with poor sitting posture can lead to chronic pain. Poor sitting posture also affects you shoulders and neck. Hunching over your computer or phone will put you at risk for disc compression and other premature degeneration of the spine. Follow these simple tips and you may be surprised on how these small changes can help ease your back and neck pain if followed consistently.
- Change your desk set up - Proper office ergonomics can help you be more comfortable at work. To start, make sure your monitor is approximately one arm's length away from the tip of your nose. The top of your monitor should be eye level or sightly below. Choose a chair that supports your natural spine curvature. Your feet should rest comfortably flat on the floor so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. You may need a footrest to achieve this position if you cannot adjust the chair height. If you have to use the telephone for long period of your work day, consider using a headset verses holding the phone between your head and shoulder. When you are typing, you should be positioned so that your wrists remain straight, your upper arms are close to your body (not outstretched) and your hands are in line with your elbows. Again, adjusting your chair height can get you to this position if you are not able to adjust your desk.
2. Get up and move - For every hour of sitting it is important to get out of your chair and walk around or stretch for a few minutes. This can be achieved by taking a restroom break, walking to another area of the office to talk to a co-worker or incorporating a few standing stretches right there in your office space
3. Stretches at the office- Try a few simple stretches that don't require any equipment and can help reduce pressure in your lower spine and improve your flexibility
- Standing trunk extension- stand with feet shoulder width apart, place your hands on the small of your back and slowly lean backwards until you feel a mild stretch in the abdominal muscles. Hold the stretch for 15 to 20 seconds. Complete 3 times.
- Seated knee to chest- sitting in a chair, raise one knee towards your chest and use both hands to pull the knee up towards your chest until you feel a gentle stretch in the lower back. Hold this for 15-20 seconds and repeat 3 times on each side.
- Prayer stretch- start on your hands and knees and slowly lower your buttocks towards your feet until you feel a moderate stretch along your mid to lower back. You may also feel a nice stretch to your shoulders. Hold the stretch for 6 to 10 deep breaths. Repeat 3 times.
- Side bend stretch- this can be completed standing or seated. Raise your right arm overhead and bend your upper body to the left side in a reaching motion. Be careful not to twist your torso, keep your upper body facing straight ahead. Hold the stretch 15-20 seconds and then repeat the stretch to the other side. Repeat 3 times to each side.
Changing positions, taking small breaks and making sure your desk and chair are adjusted properly are great ways to relieve daily back strain and aches. As always, if you are experiencing more chronic pain, where the pain does not seem to go away as you get moving or it persists for longer than 3 months, contact the clinic and we can discuss further interventions to help you get back to doing the things you love to do.