I often get asked by my patients about posture, ergonomics, and stretching to do while at work. While all of these things are great to help reduce pain and stiffness at work, the most important thing you can do for your overall health, including aches and pains, is stand up! According to a survey by Ergotron, the average American sits for 13 hours per day. Sitting this much can lead to an increase risk for heart disease, cancer, and diabetes as well as cause joint problems specifically in the spine. Sitting puts more pressure on the spine than standing, and poor posture while sitting increases that pressure even more. This constant static pressure on the spine can wear down your intervertebral discs – the shock absorbing cushions between each vertebrae – in your spine. Wearing of these discs can lead to problems such as neck pain, back pain, disc herniations or bulging, and eventually arthritis and disc decay.
As I mentioned before, one great way to help decrease the risks of diseases and pain that sitting all day contributes to, is to stand up and get vertical. Even the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity, 3 times per week isn’t enough to combat sitting greater than 6 hours a day. Sit/Stand desks are an excellent way to stand more throughout your work day, but may not be practical for all of us.
Here are some easy ways to incorporate movement into your day:
Stand once every hour. Set an alarm to make this an easy goal to achieve. Even just standing for a minute or two and stretching is a great way to get the blood pumping and take some pressure of off the spine and intervertebral discs. Don’t want to decrease productivity? Use this time to go to the bathroom, talk to someone, or make a copy!
Stand up while on the phone (with a hands-free device, of course) and march in place or do arm circles.
Need to get something from the printer or file something into the filing cabinet? Stand up to do so, don’t just roll your chair around your office.
Have a habit of sitting after a long day to watch your favorite TV show? Stand during commercials and do a few squats or jog in place.
Park your car further away from your work, the restaurant, or store to get in a few extra steps.
Schedule movement into your day – a walk before you head home from work, first thing in the morning, or even at lunch is a great way to start.
If you are experiencing pain from prolonged sitting, it could be your joints causing the problem. Get your spine checked to make sure there aren’t any joint restrictions in your spine, which can cause muscle spasms, inflammation and pain. Movement is critical for joint health as well as for an overall healthy lifestyle. Try implementing one or all of the ways mentioned above to start your journey to a healthier you!
Dr. Katy Gorman, D.C. is an Independent Chiropractor practicing in Traverse City and Kingsley, MI. She is dedicated to helping the whole family reach their healthcare goals through conservative care.