Is sitting the new smoking??
If you’re sitting while reading this article, you may be feeling a few back twinges – or even a LOT of back pain.
Perhaps you have been in front of your computer for an hour or two, or even all day.
The downside of our modern lifestyle means we all sit for dangerously long times and don’t move about enough.
We also don’t sit in the right kind of chair.
This sedentary lifestyle is incredibly unhealthy and can cause degeneration of the neck and back.
Stiffness, pain and back seizures commonly result from bad sitting, which points to the value of a good chair and regular exercise.
Can exercise change my back pain?
Even a bit of daily exercise can change everything. If, for example, you are sitting right now – stand up! Breathe in. Stretch. Reach for the sky, then the ground. Touch your toes. Suck in your stomach.
Feel better? You’re probably not quite healed, so take a seat and carry on reading!
Hopefully, you’re sitting in a well-designed chair that takes the strain off your neck and back. But that’s not the complete solution to a sedentary lifestyle.
Ideally, you should sit less and stretch often.
No time to exercise !…..We hear this excuse all the time. Life is frantic – we wake up, feed the kids, get in the car, sit in traffic, rush to work, sit for hours in front of our computer, rush home, cook dinner, vacuum (not good for the back!), get the kids to bed, and eventually chill out in front of the television.
“There’s simply no time for daily exercise. And who can afford the expense of a private fitness instructor or a pilates class?”
There have to be other options to fix back pain.
One of the simplest is to get a special ergonomic chair that’s both comfortable and ensures you sit the right way.
The best chairs are designed to strengthen back muscles and generally make life easy for us. But that’s not enough. Try doing these things at the same time:
Pay attention to how you are sitting.
Most of us don’t sit well. It’s easy to slouch over our computers, especially after we’ve been working for a few hours.
So consciously think about the way you sit. Straighten your back and relax your shoulders. Not only will you feel better, you will look better too.
The best advice I’ve had is to keep my head and neck in line with my torso, drop my shoulders and keep my arms and elbows in line with my body. It helps a little.
I also put post-it notes on my computer to remind me to sit well.
Step away from the computer
Don’t worry; you won’t have to do this for long.
Step away every half an hour, just for a few minutes. Do a few stretches. And if you are lucky enough to work from home or in a private office, roll out a yoga mat.
You need only a few good stretches every day to strengthen your back muscles and make you feel better.
Lose a few kilos
I can imagine you rolling your eyes because losing weight can be tricky. If you are overweight, start slowly. Don’t do any wild crash diets but cut down on carbs and increase your exercise regime. If you lose a couple of kilos, your back pain won’t be so bad. It may even disappear!
Take a walk
Physicians are big believers in walking. If you spend all day in the office, try walking to work or at least to the bus stop. Take a walk during your lunch break. Walk with your back straight. Measure your steps on your smartphone – it’s always good to have a goal, so step up your daily walk from 1km a day to 3km, and double that on weekends. Walking is brilliant for all body aches and pains. It’s also good for mental health.
The difference between smoking and sitting is that smoking comes with a warning sign. Cigarette boxes say SMOKING WILL KILL YOU, but you’ll never find that sign on chairs or sofas. So sit properly, get up and move around often, and keep your body strong and supple.
What happens when you sit for too long?
Sitting places stress on the muscles and discs of your back. Your hip flexors, the iliopsoas muscles, tighten up and thereby limit the blood flow (ischemia) to your buttocks, the gluteus maximus. This is the muscle that supports your spine, and if it fails to get enough blood your spine will stiffen, seize up and cause pain.
The more you sit, the more you slouch – stretching the spinal ligaments abnormally. This in turn strains the spinal discs, causing them to bulge unhealthily.
Basically, your muscles are worn down and torn down by sitting badly and for too long.
Sitting is not great for mental health
Studies at Deakin University’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research have linked our sedentary lifestyle to depression. The answer therefore is to get out in the fresh air as often as possible and stretch your muscles. Stress and anxiety will then melt away.
How can we avoid sitting?
You can’t, of course. But make sure you stand and exercise your muscles at regular intervals. Look online and follow a few simple workout techniques.
And then ensure you have the right kind of chair, especially if you spend a long time in front of your computer. There are many chairs that offer good back support.
How about a Swiss ball?
It’s a good alternative. Keep one handy so that you can substitute it for your chair occasionally. But first get a good ergonomic chair that offers excellent back support, regardless of whether you’re sitting for hours on end or even minutes.
Remember, you can use the Swiss ball for exercise too.
These simple things may help your back pain:
- Sit up straight.
- Suck in your stomach, it strengthens your abdomen and your back.
- Go for a walk daily, no matter how short or long.
- Download a short exercise routine and do the exercises daily.
- Take breaks from sitting.
- Stand up and stretch.
- Buy a yoga mat.
- Do some yoga or pilates, or both.
- Lose a little weight.
- If you are obese, lose weight with a combination of diet and exercise.
- And buy yourself a Swiss ball and/or an ergonomic chair.
Hopefully your back pain has eased
It’s important to always take back pain seriously. Just a small niggle can become serious, so put a few notes around your office or home, reminding you to sit straight, take breaks, do your exercises.
This website links to a series of tools to combat low back pain, and a good place to start is my free eBook titled: The 5 most common causes of back pain.
The cause of your low back pain may be simpler than you think. Make some simple changes to your daily habits and you will soon be on the path to a healthy, pain-free back.
This website also links to my Back to Basics toolkit, which is packed with simple information that can change your life.