If you constantly find a nagging pain in either your neck or back, you are not alone. According to MedicinePlus, 8 out of 10 people are affected by back pain at some point in their lives. Persistent pain can cause you distress and can decrease your office productivity. If your back pain is lasting for more than three months, you can call it chronic. If you find yourself in such a situation, then it is time to take action.
Many of our pains stems from poor posture. We maintain the poor posture for long and this lack of knowledge of maintaining the right posture affects us later. In addition, various stress factors also aggravate the pain. If you have developed your back or neck pain after getting employed, then prolonged sitting in the office may be the underlying cause. Although, we can’t be sure that you have got the pain due to prolonged sitting, but this is being seen as one of the major factors affecting the spine health of people today.
Our Bodies Are Not Designed To Sit For Long
Let’s understand one thing that our bodies are not designed to sit for long. If you think about our evolution, you can understand that the progressive formation of the human body is determined by the activities humans are doing for the ages. From the hunter form to the modern generation, it has been a long journey and our bodies have evolved accordingly. Scientists are repeating the same sentence again, i.e. our bodies are not designed to sit for long.
Daryl Conant is an Exercise Physiologist and the Former U.S. Olympic Committee Strength Coach. One of his articles suggests that the human body is designed to operate in an upright mode in which all the muscles synchronously work together to support the spine. He gets some of the common cases such as disc degeneration, herniated discs, etc. from the people coming to him for a cure.
According to Daryl, the human body is not designed to sit in a chair for long. But, in the modern age where most of our work involves the use of a computer; we have to sit to get our job done. While we can’t leave our jobs, we can implement some positive modifications in our daily lives so as to minimize the harmful effects that we eventually have to face due to prolonged sitting.
What Are The Harmful Effects Of Prolonged Sitting?
Before talking about what we can do to minimize the effects, let's know what are the harmful effects of prolonged sitting either at office or at home. Imagine yourself in a slouched position in your chair with the fingers on the keyboard and eyes on the computer screen. In the sitting position, the blood flow becomes slow and the muscle activity goes down. Sitting causes your abdominal muscles to compress and thus makes the digestion process sluggish. In the sedentary mode; your brain also gets less oxygen and blood, which are required to trigger the release of the mood-enhancing chemicals.
In addition to these effects on the major organs, prolonged sitting also negatively impacts the neck, shoulders and back. While we keep an eye on our important project running on the system, we often forget that our neck has been in an uncomfortable position for long. This straining of the neck muscles can turn into chronic pain, if we don’t take care of it from the very beginning. With prolonged sitting, more pressure is being put on the back. The disks in the back expand and contract as their natural function when we are in the activity mode. But when we live most of our time in the sedentary mode, the disks eventually lose their flexibility and the ability to properly absorb nutrients. This in turn leads to different kinds of ailments related to the disks.
Sedentary behaviors increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases significantly. From obesity and diabetes to depression, everything can be related to the prolonged sitting in one way or another.
As humans, it is natural for us to get into a state of panic when there is so much demerit of prolonged sitting. But with panic, we will increase our stress levels even more. So, let’s keep it cool and jot down some action points that we can start implementing from the now, so as to minimize the harmful effects of prolonged sitting.
Steps We Can Take To Minimize the Harmful Effects of Prolonged Sitting
We will discuss some concrete steps that can be implemented easily without much thinking and planning. These are the steps that you can take while you are in the office. But, before carrying out these small steps in the office, it is always better to start the day with a morning walk.
If you don’t walk in the morning, then you are missing some very good ideas and feelings that come to your mind in the morning. Morning is the time when we face the fresh breeze. If you start your day with a morning walk, then you will experience a good energy boost. Morning walk has many benefits and it also enhances your overall posture.
At the office, remaining confined to your chair for long is always a bad idea. It is very necessary to keep moving amidst your daily work pressure. Take short breaks at least once in every hour. Go out for a walk. Stand up to reach for a glass of water. Go to a coworker to chat about a project or any specific subject appropriate to the office. Do anything you feel comfortable with, but get up of your chair.
There are certain easy office stretches that you can do while sitting in the chair. This will also help you in making deviations to your prolonged sitting positions and you can gain in the long run. Check here the 12 best stretching exercises that you can do at your desk.
Another important factor that plays a vital role in determining our posture and spine health is choosing the right office chair. Your office chair should provide you with complete support. You need to customize your chair according to your height and comfort levels. Lower back support of the chair is necessary to minimize the strain on the back. Your lower back should align well with the chair.
The armrests should be such that you could comfortably rest your arms on both sides of the chair. The chair height should allow your eye and the top portion of your computer screen to be in the same level. This lets you keep your neck in a comfortable position, so you don’t get any kind of strains.
Maintaining the right posture becomes easy with conscious practice. It doesn’t happen in a day. But if you want to protect yourself from the harmful effects of prolonged sitting at office, you need to start making changes to your posture and your activities early.