Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Office Workers Beware!

I'm a fan of computers and all, but sitting all day is bad for your back, bad for your neck, and bad for your sense of well being, too. I know--I'm writing this while sitting, and if it weren't for the fact that I regularly show (and therefore do myself) people exercises to help recover from the excesses of sitting, I'd likely end up with back pain myself. That scenario is not a practice builder.
What's so bad about sitting? I'm glad you asked--first off, prolonged time in any position can shorten certain muscles and lengthen others beyond the norm. Sitting though, especially at a desk in front of a computer, can really wreak havoc on the low back and neck. Let's start from the bottom, at the hip flexors. That would be these guys:

That one muscle, the psoas ("so-as") is especially prone to shrinking to fit the shape it's called to be conformed to all day long. As a result, we get tight in the front of our hips. Right here:

When a muscle is shortened it is essentially flexed. You have built into your muscles a mechanism (called "reciprocal inhibition") that causes muscles on the opposite side of a joint to relax to enable the contracting muscle to contract unimpeded. As an example, when you flex your biceps, your triceps relax so your arm doesn't tear off or explode with all that raw power.

In the same way, when your hip flexors are contracted, and end up shortening after all day sit-a-thons, the muscles that are forced to relax are found beneath your back pockets and are known far and wide as your glutes. Also known as your butt muscles.

When your glutes get turned off because your hip flexors are contracted and shortened and therefore always a little too activated, problems in gait (the way you walk) can be the consequence. Because, you see, your glutes help extend your hip when you walk--in other words they help with the pushing off motion of taking a step. Go ahead, touch your own and extend your leg backwards to feel them activate.

When your glutes aren't doing their job, other muscles and tissues try to compensate, but there really is no other muscles that can do the job as well. This often leads to IT Band Syndrome when runners go from desk to the track with inhibited glutes. IT band syndrome results in pain on the outside of your thigh. You can see in the following picture that the IT band is in a key location to try and do something it shouldn't be doing when the glutes are fast asleep at the wheel.

The effects of sleepy glutes can eventually lead to knee pain and ankle pain as well--it just depends on how your system compensates for the faulty movement pattern.

Short hip flexors can also cause low back pain, which we'll explore in the coming days. I'll follow up with how sitting affects your neck, and then we'll get into some stretches and exercises that will help with both ends of you. You can usually manage these things yourself, which is good, but if you're in more that the usual pain it could be something that could use a more experienced eye, and if that's the case, come see us at Heathrow Chiropractic!

No comments:

Post a Comment