Most of us out there have been told to sit up straight, don’t slouch. But not many of us have been told “Don’t sit for so long, get up, move around”, unless of course you’ve been to the clinic and seen me!
Work-related and more specifically desk-job related musculoskeletal problems are one of the leading causes for work leave/sick days. So why is this and what can we do about it?
Sitting for prolonged periods can start to decrease the mobility in our hips and low back. Sitting keeps our hip flexors shortened (those are the muscles at the front of our hips/legs) which limits the amount of hip extension we are able to achieve (hip extension is bringing the leg backward past the body). In walking we require 15-30degs of hip extension, if you are unable to achieve the required amount of movement then the back tends to compensate. This leads to low back pain and even sciatica. Even further, the detriments of sitting are not limited to those who lead a sedentary lifestyle, runners can experience chronic ankle (achilles) or heel/foot pain from decreased hip mobility as a result of prolonged sitting.
The thing about sitting for 8 hours a day is that no one can maintain proper posture for that long. People will tend to sacral sit, or slouch/recline in the chair which then switches off our core muscles, further contributing to back and hip issues. Or people try to overcorrect their posture and sit with a posture that is too erect with an increased arch in their low back. These individuals may also be trying to find stability while sitting by using their bony anatomy for support rather than their muscles. This again can lead to increased lower back pain and discomfort. But sitting all day does not only affect our lower backs and hips, it can have a significant impact on our neck and shoulders. We often sit with a rounded shoulder and forward head posture or slumping. This weakens the deep stabilizers of the neck and our postural support at the muscles surrounding our shoulders leading to neck pain, shoulder pain and even headaches.