Monday, January 21, 2013

Sitting Is The New Smoking

Sitting is the "new smoking." When I recently heard this I had to stop & think about it a moment. It would seem obvious that if you're a sedentary person that sitting alone would have negative effects on your health, but there are all sorts of studies and statistics that state things like:
  •  For every hour you sit in front of the TV you raise the risk of death by 11%. 
  •  Sitting for more that six  hours per day puts you on an early death list EVEN IF YOU EXERCISE. 
  • People who sit are more prone to high blood pressure, depression, and cancer.
  • Sitting for longer periods of time predisposes you to developing diabetes and if you are already diabetic, then stick a fork in yourself because your done. 
What seems so non-threatening or non-toxic to our body is basically just the opposite.  We are heading for a society just like in the movie "Wall-E" where all the humans sit around reclining in chairs, eat fast food and drink sodas, LOL.

The reality is that many people have jobs that require sitting, and because of that most will just disregard the studies because there is "nothing they can do about it". But there are choices you can make that can minimize these detrimental effects.  More on that in a moment...

First, from a musculoskeletal point of view, let me try and describe to you why sitting could be a major contributor of your aches and pains most commonly your neck, shoulders, and lower back.  First of all, anything done repetitively and for an extended period of time is going to cause some over-use issues leading to breakdown and injury. Sitting is NOT exempt from the overuse category even though you may not  feel as though you're doing anything harmful.  The reality is that your body is always fighting gravity and the way your structure is aligned is going to forecast how long it will be able to handle those gravitational forces before it starts to breaking down.

Our office focuses on the Structural Correction of the spine.  If the body has structural problems, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and discs are over stressed from the forces of gravity. Better ergonomics are not always enough. I look at ergonomics as a tool to help an already normal structure become more productive and withstand fatigue as a protective measure NOT a corrective measure.  For example, a person with a herniated disc in their lower back might feel better with a seat cushion, but the herniation is still there and needs to be corrected.  Applying better ergonomics to a broken structure is like putting tape on a baseball bat.....its temporary.  Once a patient's structural problems are identified, a thorough game plan to correct and protect the structure is recommended for a long term solution.

The other dangerous part to sitting is the LACK of MOVEMENT.  No matter how good your structure and ergonomics, you are still not moving!  Our bodies are meant to move; joints need to go through full ranges of motion to stay healthy.  Soft tissue (muscle & ligaments) will adapt to any position after about 20 minutes and become abnormally shortened or lengthened.  On top of that muscles and fascia are designed to slide on top of one another.  Lack of movement causes a gluing of these structures to one another that prevents normal function.  When a cat wakes up from a nap, the first thing it does is stretch to become more mobile.  This is what most people don't do after being immobile for long periods.  This lack of mobility causes the body to compensate (Structural Shifts) and move abnormally leading to secondary symptoms like pain.

So what can you do?  First, get a thorough structural assessment to identify any abnormal shifts in your spine.  Second, get your work station assessed to see if it can be ergonomically improved.  Third, move, move & move.  See if you can do some work while standing and trade off.  There are even treadmill desks that are becoming more popular.  Fourth, perform some mobility exercises (especially for the lower body) to address the soft tissue affect of sitting.  Fifth, if you have any questions, give us a call.   A consultation is always no charge.  It's a conversation, not a commitment.

Thanks for Reading!

Dr. Deane


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