SITTING DOWN ON THE JOB
Does your job find you sitting most of the day?
While sitting can seem restful, keep in mind that staying in any one position for long periods of time can cause strain and injury to your muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments. Sustained sitting can take a toll on your neck and lower back – steady compression on the spinal discs hinders their nutrition and can contribute to premature degeneration.
So, if you have to sit at work, what can you do to stay pain-free? Help take the load off your back with these tips:
Take frequent breaks
First, ensure that you take regular breaks from sitting. Get up, take a short walk outside or around the office, and stretch.
Next, pay attention to your posture. Sitting incorrectly puts strain on your lower back, decreases blood flow to your working muscles and accelerates fatigue. Practise “active sitting” with your feet flat on the ground in front of you, your back straight, your shoulders squared and your chin parallel with the floor. This posture will strengthen the “core” muscles of your abdomen, sides and back to reduce the strain on other areas. The stronger your core muscles, the easier it will be to maintain good posture.
Choose a good office chair
What’s most important in preventing injury and strain is to be able to easily vary your sitting positions throughout the day. An investment in a good office chair can help a lot. The right chair for you should:
- Be easily adjustable to suit your size
- Adapt to support your spine in various working positions
- Have a backrest that supports your lower back
- Have armrests, if they are appropriate to your work
- Have a front edge that curves downward to promote proper posture
One recent trend is to use a stability ball at the office. While a ball is a great tool to help you tone your abs at home or at the gym, it should not replace a good chair at your work station. If you do bring the ball to work:
- Use the ball only for short periods
- Use your abdominal, back and side muscles to maintain straight posture
- Stop when your muscles feel tired
Sitting on a ball instead of a chair can actually increase the pressure on your back, especially if your core muscles aren’t strong. So, sitting a long time on the ball may lead to greater discomfort in your lower back. Do not use a ball if you have osteoporosis, balance or low back problems.
Remember, stability balls are not for everyone; consult a chiropractor if you have any pre-existing injury or health problems that could impact your balance or stability.
Provided by: Dr. Luciano Di Loreto, HBSc., D.C. & Associates
I came across a great article today that I believe everyone can benefit from especially desk workers. We know sitting at a desk all day can be pretty bad for us. But not everyone has a company gym membership or a work schedule that allows for morning and afternoon fitness classes. So here are six stretches that loosen the muscles made most stiff by sitting. No gym equipment or extended lunch hours required!
1. Neck and Shoulders. Hunching over keyboards strains the cervical spine and stiffens our shoulders. On the next bathroom break, reach your arms behind you, and interlock your fingers so that your palms face. Lift your arms so you feel a stretch in your chest and front shoulders. Draw your chin down to avoid crunching the neck. (Of course, feel free to do this at your desk. Tell anyone who gawks to follow suit.)
2. Hip Flexors & Iliopsoas. These muscle groups are at an especially high risk of tightening after long days at a desk. Here’s a morning stretch to keep ‘em lengthy. Kneel on the floor (top of the shins and feet as your base, torso straight). Pick up your left leg and place the left foot on the floor, keeping the knee directly above ankle. Keep both hips horizontally aligned as you move your torso toward the wall in front of you, gliding the knee forward. You may feel a stretch in your calf and Achilles. Place the hands on the top of the left thigh for support. Hold for 30 second. Switch sides. Repeat.
3. Abdominals. Reach your arms above you and lean slightly back so your chest and throat point towards the sky. If you have difficulty balancing, keep your gaze forward or down to the floor. Repeat on the other side.
4. Obliques. From the original hip flexor stretch (low lunge, left foot forward, right knee and shin on the floor) reach your left arm to your side and touch the fingers to the floor or stack of books for support. Curve your right arm over your head reaching the right fingertips over the left side of your body. Hold for 20 seconds. Breathe. See if you can stretch a bit further, then return to a straight spine. Switch legs and repeat on the other side.
5. Lower Back & Lats. Sitting for too long rounds out our spine in all the wrong places. The muscles surrounding the lumbar spine get particularly weak while the hamstrings can go slack. Lie on your stomach on the floor or on a mat. Hard version: Lift your legs off the floor. Easy version: Keep the legs on the floor. Bend your elbows and interlock your fingertips behind your neck (thumbs on either side of your neck, pointing towards your upper back). Lift your chin, look ahead. Inhale while lifting your torso as far off the floor as you can, albeit gently, by tightening the muscles along your spine. Lower down on an exhale. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Now bend your knees and sit back on your heels (tops of the feet still touching the floor). Rest your torso on your thighs and your forehead on the floor or a pillow. Reach your arm out in front of you, walk the fingertips forward and retract the shoulder blades down the back. Keep your butt on your heels as you pick up your forehead and walk your hands over to the left, then to the right to throw in a lat stretch.
6. Whole Back/Spine & Hamstrings. De-stress your spine after it’s been chair-bound all day. Lie on your back, feet on the floor, knees bent. Draw both knee to chest and gently rock. Then extend the left leg straight on the floor as you keep the right knee hugged towards the chest. Take a few breaths here and enjoy the hamstring stretch. Then, keep your right shoulder on the floor and guide the right knee across the midline of your body, towards the floor, with your left hand. It’s okay if your knee doesn’t touch the floor. Stop if you feel any pain at all. After 30 seconds, draw that knee back to center. Switch legs and repeat on the other side.