Our bodies are bipedal, meaning that we were meant to stand on two feet. Sitting for long periods of time is biomechanically insufficient and places large amounts of stress on the spine. Sustained sitting can cause specific muscles to become shorter and joints to become hypomobile.
Classic seated posture:
- Places one’s head forward and rolls the shoulders, shortening muscles that commonly cause headaches.
- The shoulder blades more upward and outward increasing tension in the neck and shoulder muscles and inhibiting the stabilizing muscles of the shoulder blades.
- The mid back and low back round out forming a kyphosis, placing the disc of the spine under uneven pressure.
- The hip flexor muscles are shortened and the gluts are inhibited which can lead to Lower Cross Syndrome.
Commonly, sitting at a desk for a sustained period of time causes headaches, shoulder and/or neck pain, mid back pain, or low back pain. All of these can be prevented or decreased by taking microbreaks and performing a simple exercise.
A Microbreak consists of standing up, stretching and walking about for 30 secs. This should be performed every 30 minutes to an hour that one is sitting. Performing microbreaks will decrease the risk of muscles becoming shorter and joints becoming stiff.
Bruegger’s exercise will help relax short muscles and help strengthen inhibited muscles due to sitting.
- Sit down and spreading your feet shoulder width apart and your toes out.
- Pretend there is a string pulling your chest up and out, extending your upper back.
- Your arms should be at your side with your head looking straight in front of you.
- Gently tuck your chin and rotate your palms forward.
- Hold position for 30 secs every 30 minutes seated.
– You might feel a slight muscle squeeze between your shoulder blades, but not a strong contraction.
– You should still be able to talk when your chin is tucked, if you are unable to talk, relax a little bit!
Next time you are at your desk and you start to feel tension or pain, try taking a microbreak and performing Bruegger’s exercise. You will notice that you can sit for longer periods without pain.
Yours in health,
Dr. Justin Hildebrand