Problems Caused by Prolonged Sitting
As few as twenty years ago, computer desk jobs were a new concept, and people then had the opportunity to move more throughout the day. With the introduction of computers came various health issues associated with computer work, including fibromyalgia, digital eye fatigue, advanced obesity and lower back problems. This sedentary lifestyle can take a toll on a person’s health, especially the spinal column, causing a variety of back ailments. Nowadays, most Americans toil away in front of a computer all day and then go home and sit in front of a television set or digital device. Add in commute time sitting in a car, and sitting down for meals; Americans spend anywhere from 13 to 15 hours a day just SITTING and it is wreaking havoc on our well-being. Currently, back problems are the third most common cause of surgery in the U.S., so find a Chiropractor to improve your back and neck health. Or for preventative measures, make it a routine to stretch daily while sitting at your desk.
When you are camped at a computer all day and you don’t get up and move around, your back will pay the price. The discs between our vertebrae are sponge-like and act as a shock absorber for our spine. When we move, our discs get the nutrition they need to do their job. When we sit too long, they lose their effectiveness and flexibility over time, adding undue stress to our backs, which causes pain. Sitting puts more pressure on the discs than either standing or lying down, so it is important to move the spine to keep the discs healthy. It’s been estimated that sitting puts as much as 40 percent more pressure on your spine than just standing. Also, your posture while you sit is important. If you lean forward while you sit, you put excess pressure on the discs, leaving them vulnerable to rupture, also known as herniated discs. The way you position your neck when you sit while working at a computer can also cause strains to the discs in your neck, causing pain and soreness in the neck, shoulders, and back.
When you sit for extended periods of time and are not as active as you could be, obesity can become a problem. The more weight you gain sitting at your computer all day, the more weight that needs to be supported by your back. And, if you do not exercise regularly, your core muscles in your stomach will lose their strength, putting even more pressure on your spine. This can also result in limited range of motion for your hips, making you more susceptible to falls and fractures. This lack of movement can weaken your bones, possibly to the point of osteoporosis. Exercise is a key element to keeping your back in top shape. Stretching your spine, even if it is while you are sitting at your desk, can be helpful. Yoga, acupuncture and chiropractic care have also been useful in combating back pain and are an alternative to try before subjecting yourself to an invasive back surgery to correct the problem.
For those of us who work at computers all day, finding the time to get up and move about might seem impossible but there are ways to help your back, even if you do sit for prolonged periods of time. Most importantly is to sit correctly, because bad posture will lead to back problems. To stretch your spine while sitting, you will want to make sure you are not hunched over your keyboard. Sit up straight, take a few deep breaths, raise your arms above your head. While this is not a replacement for standing or actual movement, it can help to elongate your spine while still sitting at your desk.
To help prevent back ailments from sitting at your computer too long, set a timer and make sure you move throughout the day. Get up and stretch or take a walk, even if it is just around the office. Since you will be sitting at your computer the whole day, make sure you invest in a solid chair to support your back and five-legged chairs give you better support than standard four-legged ones. When sitting, make sure your feet can touch the floor and that your hips are on the same level or higher than your knees. You will also want to find a chair that offers lumbar support for your lower back; there are several ergonomic brands available that offer lumbar support. Or, if the chair you use doesn’t have lumbar support, you can roll up a towel or use a small pillow to place at the small of your back. You can also try sitting on an exercise ball to work your core muscles and improve your balance and flexibility. This will help to strengthen your body, including your back muscles. You can also purchase an adjustable desk, one that extends so you may stand and work and then flexes so you can sit. But remember, you need to keep your spine straight while sitting, even if you are moving during the day. Even if you walk around, sit in an ergonomic chair and use an adjustable desk, you will be doing your back a disservice if you don’t sit properly.
In addition to the back problems attributed to prolonged sitting, there are studies that show that not enough movement can affect the body’s organs, leading to health issues and serious ailments. Excess time sitting, up to ten hours a day, can lead to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, blood clots, even certain cancers. Studies have shown that too much sitting is detrimental to our bodies and our well-being; it even takes years off of our lives! It all starts with movement and the discs in our back. If we adopt a sedentary lifestyle for too long, our discs will no longer be able to move properly, which makes everything else take shape. Back pain will lead to lack of exercise, to obesity, and to more serious health conditions. When sitting in front of a computer all day, remember to move; your back will thank you!