For many of us, much of our work life involves working at a computer at a desk. This can vary in length from sitting briefly at a reception in a hotel lobby through to customer services where you sit at your desk from the moment you arrive until you leave, with a couple of breaks in between. For most of us, however, it is not really an option we are able to change. But what exactly to long periods of sitting do? And how can we help make this less problematic?
As an osteopathic clinic in Oxford, we regularly see patients with a bad back. Sitting at a desk for long periods can not only exacerbate existing conditions but create new ones. Prolonged periods of being sedentary can cause the spine to become less flexible. When regularly moving around, soft discs between vertebrae expand and contract like sponges, soaking up fresh blood and nutrients. During long periods of inactivity discs can become squashed unevenly. Collagen hardens around supporting tendons and ligaments which affects the flexibility of the spine. This can also lead to an increased risk of herniated lumbar discs. When the psoas muscle, which travels through the abdomen, tightens and pulls the upper lumbar spine forward (which happens when seated) this causes the upper body weight to rest on the ischial tuberosity instead of even distribution. This increased pressure leaves the discs vulnerable.
If you’re sitting leant over a desk for work, you will find you will often lean your neck forward towards the keyboard or tilt your head to talk on the phone. Prolonged periods of sitting in these positions can put undue strain on the cervical vertebrae which can cause tightness and pain. In turn you may find the muscles which connect the shoulders and neck will overstretch, causing more aching.
The solution to slouching?
Ideally, when you are at your desk, you should try to sit with your feet flat on the floor, relax your shoulders and keep your arms close to your side. Bend your elbows by 90° and if you can, obtain some support for your lower back. Get up and walk around whenever possible and think about exercises such as flexing your toes and ankles while you are typing!
If you find you continue to have problems with aches, back pain, neck pain and any discomfort, contact us at Kennington Osteo for an assessment to see how osteopathy can help you.