In the past fifty years, we have become a nation of sitters. Our jobs have become less active and our personal lives tend to revolve around screens, both computer and television. While this is not bad in all ways, in terms of spine health, there are many negative effects of sitting.
Our bodies are built to stand.
The 24 interlocking vertebrae and the surrounding muscles and ligaments are beautifully designed to support our weight and movement in a variety of activities. When we sit for long periods of time, the weight is not evenly distributed along our spine. Most of the pressure is focused on the lower vertebrae, which become compressed. This results in low back pain, one of the most common types of back pain.
In addition, most of us do not sit well and the muscles in our back are forced to compensate. We tend to slouch or hunch our shoulders up, and the result is muscle strain and ache in the upper back. The natural curve of the spine does not hold up unless we are actively sitting well, and after just 20 minutes of sitting poorly, damage can be done to the ligaments around the spine.
There are some simple fixes to this problem. The first is movement.
Get up and move around every 20 minutes, even if it is just to take a lap around your desk at work or make a quick phone call. This gets the blood flowing and relieves the pressure and tension in the low back.
When you have to sit back down, sit properly, maintaining the natural curve of the low back with good lumbar support. You can roll up a sweater or a towel and place it in the curve of your lower back to help. When seated, keep your elbows down by your sides and try to not hunch your shoulders. Make sure your computer is at the correct level so that your hands are resting comfortably, parallel to the floor, and you do not need to elevate or drop your arms to type.
Movement is crucial to maintain spine health; how can you incorporate more movement and less sitting into your day?
Image by Konstantin via Flickr