Americans have been told for years that we sit too much. If you reflect on your typical weekday schedule, you might agree. Chances are you sit in your car on the way to work, sit at work and then drive home only to sit more in the evening. In addition to contributing to unhealthy weight gain, heart problems, and depression, a sedentary lifestyle wreaks havoc on your back. Here are the details on why it’s so bad for you and what you can do to get moving.

Why Sitting Hurts

Our bodies are made to be active. Researchers believe that our ancient ancestors routinely walked five miles per day. Throughout most of history, people had to do active work as part of their daily chores. Nowadays, not as many of us chop wood or haul water, so we need to be active in other ways. When we spend most of our day sitting, our muscles, including the heart, get weak. Weak muscles don’t support our bones properly, and we can experience more back and joint pain. A weak heart puts you at a greater risk for heart disease and can cause fatigue.

Stress is one of the biggest contributes to dis-ease. Chronic stress can bring on or exacerbate heart problems, mental illness, and obesity. Physical activity helps the body deal with stress in a healthier way.

Since many of us have access to more calories than we need, activity is a necessary part of keeping a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese puts an extra strain on your heart, lungs, back, and joints.

In addition to sitting too much, we often sit in unhealthy ways. The positions we sit in can cause muscle and vertebral damage. Slouching forward or looking down at your phone or your computer can reduce the spine’s natural curve in your neck. These positions also cause microtears in your upper back and shoulder muscles that fill with scar tissue and become stiff. Bad posture is a lead cause of chronic back and neck pain. Some people have bad posture while standing, but most of us slip into it while sitting. What we sit on also makes a difference. An office chair or couch that isn’t supportive can cause low back pain or make you more likely to slouch forward. We should all try to sit with better posture, but often sitting less is the best way to slouch less.

Are Standing Desks the Answer?

Since the workday is the worst offender when it comes to being forced to sit for hours on end, the standing desk has been lauded as a healthier option. Is it really? The answer is yes and no. Standing in a stationary position isn’t better for your back or feet than sitting. If you aren’t wearing the right footwear, it can be worse. Standing desks are most helpful when you use them to move around a bit. Shifting your weight occasionally, walking in place, or switching off-putting one foot up on a block are the best ways to use a standing desk. You still shouldn’t use them for more than half your workday. A treadmill desk can be a better option since it gets you moving, but these aren’t for everyone.

The best solution may be to stand up and move around every hour or so. Studies have shown that standing up once an hour can reduce sitting-related cardiovascular risk. If you can walk around for five minutes, that’s even better. Some people take work phone calls or check email on their tablet while pacing the office.

If you want to try a standing desk, keep in mind that they only improve posture if they are set up correctly. Your computer screen should be at eye level, so you don’t have to look down, and your keyboard should put your elbows at a right angle. Supportive shoes, ideally with customized inserts, are vital to a healthy standing desk setup.

Making Time to Exercise

When time is short, prioritization is essential. People with back and joint pain can benefit from stretches and exercises aimed at the damage caused by sitting. Tight hamstrings (in the back of the thighs) and tight hip flexors contribute to low back pain and are common in people who sit for hours. A sedentary lifestyle also weakens your core muscles, making it difficult for them to support and protect your spine. An exercise routine that stretches your hip flexors, pelvis, and chest and strengthens your core, glutes, and hamstrings is ideal for recovering from sitting all day.

Try exercises like dead bugs, single leg bridge, deadlifts, goblet squat, and plank. You can put together a 15 to 30-minute routine to do before or after work. Add some organic movement throughout your day to get more minutes of exercise. Try taking the stairs or parking further from the grocery store. Playing with your kids or doing chores like vacuuming also counts as exercise.

Recovering from Sitting-Related Injuries

If you’ve been slouching at your desk for a long time, you may need some medical treatment to help bring your spine back into alignment and release knotted muscles and scar tissue adhesions. Spinal adjustments, massage, and cold laser therapy can help treat these issues. If you have chronic pain or a known injury, you should talk to your chiropractor about exercising safely. He can help you build up to a good routine without aggravating your injury. Your chiropractor can also prescribe corrective exercises to improve your posture and work with you in the office to make sure you can perform them correctly. If you follow your treatment plan, you can greatly reduce chronic pain and muscle tension.

Back Pain Treatment in Kentucky

At All Star Chiropractic, we help our clients get out of pain and back to enjoying life.  We also offer lifestyle advice and posture correction to prevent further injury. Make an appointment today to find out how we can help you live active and pain-free.