Sitting is the New Smoking
This article was provided by Dr. John Scott DC, a chiropractor at Chiropractic Center For Health in Calgary, Alberta. If you’d like to learn more please visit https://www.myspinedocs.com/
Acute and chronic low back pain is becoming one of the most prevalent physical conditions in Canada. Instead of treating the problem, individuals often try to temporarily mask what could have been a relatively otherwise easy fix, with medication. Medication doesn’t usually solve the problem but rather temporarily alleviates the pain symptoms. The problem can become progressively worse as medication hides the effects of a deteriorating condition. In most cases, conservative approaches should be taken first. These include; Chiropractic adjustments, Massage, Active Release Technique (ART), Instrument assisted soft tissue massage (IASTM: Graston/Gavilon), Acupuncture utilized in conjunction with proper posture, educating, strengthening and stretching exercises etc.
The Effects of Prolonged Sitting
Nowadays, most people sit for the majority of their day. Whether it’s at your desk working, in your car driving or at home watching your favorite show, sitting is extremely prevalent. Our bodies were made for movement and unless you’re making time to go to the gym on a regular basis or play with a community team, we’re generally not getting the movement or exercise needed for optimal health. When we sit for a prolonged period, our body reacts and begins to hold that posture. As a result, some of your muscles and ligaments become shorter and tighter while their counterparts become longer and looser. This overall mechanical change causes the joints to lose their natural full range of motion. This concept can be applied to any part of the body when not holding a proper posture. Other examples include, looking down at your phone, leaning too far forward with your head and neck reading your computer or an increased curvature (Kyphosis) in your mid back when you’ve been hunched over studying at a desk.
The main muscles responsible for low back and hip pain while sitting are, a tight Iliopsoas and weak gluts. The Iliopsoas muscle can be broken down into two parts; the Iliacus and Psoas. The Iliacus originates from the inside of your pelvis (iliac fossa), while the Psoas originates from the front of the lumbar spine (low back). Both of these muscles join together and insert into the front of your thigh (femur). As you sit this muscle becomes shorter and shorter. As the psoas shortens, especially after a long period of sitting it, can cause low back pain by pulling on the spine as you stand up. Opposingly, the three glut muscles (gluteus minimus, gluteus medius and gluteus maximus) naturally cause your thigh to be drawn backwards (extension) with some rotation. Having your thigh brought forward (flexion) while sitting stretches the glute muscles and over a period of time makes them weak, causing them to resist the natural action of the hip flexors poorly.
Stretches that Benefit Individuals Who Sit A lot
If you’re not moving around continuously there are several things you can do to loosen up your hip flexors and strengthen your hip extensors. The easiest thing to do is to not sit as long. So either having a sit stand desk or getting up to walk around every 30 min to loosen things back up can be very effective and is great to incorporate into a daily work routine. Exercises such as static stretches or rolling a ball through the front of your hip flexors are great too. In order to strengthen and tighten up your weak gluts, squats or glut bridges can be done. Keep in mind that in order to help rid your low back pain it’s just as important to strengthen you glutes as it is to stretch out your hip flexors.
Research shows us that sitting is one of the more strenuous positions for our low backs. It was found that sitting caused about 1.5 times more pressure on your lumbar spine than standing alone. To make matters worse if you slump or lean forward about 20 degrees that number increases the pressure to almost twice that of standing. Having this constant stress on your low back can accelerate spinal degeneration. This can be explained by a law developed by a German anatomist and surgeon Julius Wolff. The law states that healthy normal bone will adapt and change under the load in which it’s placed. Simply put more bone will be laid down where stress is placed (ie tension from the muscles). When your spine gets to this degenerative stage, it’s a lot harder to heal. When a spine becomes degenerated bony projections off the vertebra called spurs can also grow and the discs between the bony vertebras thin out. This leads to chronic pain and can last for years. This is why proper posture and movement are so important. I constantly recommend easy low back exercises that help immensely. Some of my favorite methods and well researched exercises, are the McGill Big 3. This includes Bird Dog, Curl-Up and the side plank. These three exercises target your low back and core while helping to strengthen the muscles along with aiding in joint mobility.
If you or someone you know is experiencing low back pain or have any questions, book an appointment to see Dr. Aaron D’Amico, Doctor of Chiropractic at the Chiropractic Center for Health.
By Dr. Aaron D’Amico
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