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Is sitting at your desk causing you back pain?

How many times a day do you sit down?

1 hour traveling to work in the car or on the bus, 6-8 hours each day at work, another hour travelling home from work, 2-3 hours of the sofa watching television in the evenings… it could easily add up to more than 12 hours a day.

With the average person working for 40-50 years of their life that is a lot of hours spent sitting down!

What’s the problem?

There are multiple issues to note with prolonged sitting. When we sit for a long period, our postural muscles get tired, and we start to slouch. This leads to a rounding of the shoulders, curvature of the lower back and a forward head posture.

This posture compresses the small joints of the spine called facet joints and stretches the supporting muscles and ligaments. Over time this leads to acute and/or chronic back pain, neck pain, jaw pain, headaches, shoulder injury and much more.

When we are sitting the effects of gravity and the weight of our body are at their highest, this means over time our lumbar spine is compressed and the amount of pressure our intervertebral discs must cope with is more than doubled. This results in an increased likelihood of back pain, disc injuries and the early onset of degenerative conditions such as arthritis.

An anterior head posture and rounding of the shoulders can also pinch and irritate the nerves supplying the arms causing neck pain, shoulder pain, referred pain into the arms and tingling in the hands. It also tips our centre of gravity forwards which puts further strain on the already fatigued muscles of the upper and lower back that are trying to keep us upright.

What else?

As well as having significant negative effects on our physical well-being, spending too much time sitting can also have an impact on our general health and well-being.

Weight gain is strongly associated with a sedentary lifestyle and the increased time spent sitting. When we move not only do we use energy and burn calories, but our muscle movement also triggers the release of specific enzymes that give our metabolism an extra boost processing the sugars and fats in our bloodstream.

Research shows that those living a sedentary are at a much greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, respiratory dysfunction, cancer and have an increased overall risk of death from any cause.

We also know that poor posture can affect our confidence and plays a role in both anxiety and depression.

What can we do about it?

Luckily, the answer is quite simple. We CAN counteract our time spent sitting by making the effort to move more throughout the day. With a few small changes we CAN relieve the pressure on our joints, offload tight and tired muscles, boost circulation and reduce our risk of developing illness and injury.

Following these steps will help you to avoid back pain, improve your mobility and reduce your chances of developing any serious injury.

  1. Move more while at work – take regular breaks from your desk, aim to get up and move around at least once every hour.

  2. Move more outside of work – we should be aiming to exercise at least 3x per week, whether that be walking, at the gym or through sports and hobbies we enjoy.

  3. Pay good attention to your posture and correct yourself if you notice you are slouching

  4. Commit to seeing your Osteopath or physiotherapist semi-regularly, we can help you identify and fix postural issues long before they become chronic. Regular treatment can keep longstanding issues from returning.

  5. Look into your workplace set up and ergonomics, getting the correct set up and investing to the right equipment will make a huge difference in the long run

Desk set up and Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the study of people in their working environment. By taking a closer look at our workspace and our work habits we can make small adjustments that will have a huge effect over time and aim to eliminate the risk of workplace injury and repetitive strain.

Where possible use a desk that can transition between sitting and standing, giving you a variety of movements and postures throughout the day. This might feel unnatural to begin with but over time you’ll build strength and be able to stand comfortably for longer periods.

What if I still have back pain?

If you are still experiencing pain and discomfort after implementing these changes it could be that there are underlying issues that need addressing.

As Osteopaths, postural strains and alignment issues are our bread and butter and we would love to help you get to the root cause of your injury and get you living life pain free.

We offer a FREE 15 min consultation with one of our specialists, for anybody curious as to whether osteopathy is right for them. For more information on how we could help please call 0115 998 4798 or simply book online.

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