If you’ve read anything online in the fitness world, I’m sure you’ve read how bad sitting all day is for you. Well, I’m going to take it a step further and explain to you actually how and why it’s harmful for your body. Then I will give you a couple of solutions to help you deal with the onsets of having a desk job.
The first thing to happen when you start your first desk job is that you start to experience some knee pain, or maybe some hip pain. You know that little pinching you feel in the front crease of your hip. Yeah, that’s from working your desk job. The next thing you will notice is that you start to feel your shoulders round to the front. You may start to get a pinching sensation right on top of your shoulder blades, or maybe even frequent headaches that you can feel radiating from the base of your neck. You’ve experienced all of these? It is extremely common! Most people that I work with who have desk jobs have experienced one if not all of these symptoms of prolonged sitting.
Why does this happen? I’ll break it down for you.
You may think “how could I be doing harm to my body? I’m not moving!” That is in fact exactly how the issues form. Your body’s musculature is designed to move, and when we don’t, weird things happen to the muscles. Think of the muscles as being a balancing act around each joint. Each muscle is designed to pull and move joint in certain directions. When stay static in certain positions for prolonged periods of time, muscles begin to pull harder than their opposing muscles because of the positioning of the joints.
Let's look at the picture of how the average person sits in their desk chair, and solely examine the lower body. What do we notice? We see that the hips are flexed (the knees are moving toward the body). Why is this a big deal? Think of the areas you feel pain at. Now look at the picture again. The knees and hips are both stuck in a flexed position. Certain muscles have to constantly pull those joints into that position. When we work a certain muscle over and over it becomes stronger. So, naturally what happens to the other muscles that aren’t working as hard? They become weaker. Hence why we feel pain in those areas. The overworked muscles continue to work harder than the underworked muscles all the time!
The same thing happens with the upper body! The anterior (front) musculature begins to pull harder than the posterior (back). Which is why so many people walk around at later ages with a noticeable hump on their upper backs. Years of this posture lead to calcium and bone buildup around the upper back and neck region making it more and more difficult to correct. (Yikes!)
"Why does my head hurt then?" You begin to get headaches because sitting in front of a computer all day causes the same issues as sitting in a chair. Certain muscles around your neck begin to become stronger than other musculature, pulling on your neck and head. If you’ve ever had a massage and the masseuse pinches your traps (a group muscles that connects neck to shoulders) and you get an instant headache and upon release the headache goes away. This is the exact same concept. You are putting unnecessary pressure on your head and neck by looking down at your computer/desk/phone for the majority of the day.
How do I solve these issues? The solution is actually quite simple; get up and move. Here’s a list of solutions: (below is a video of how to help correct lower body issues)
- Take 5 minute walk breaks every hour to 2 hours of work
- Stand up at your desk (some companies provide standing desks)
- Sit up tall and straight for the majority of your work day (this can only help so much as you are still sitting)
- Raise your computer monitor so you are looking ahead and not down
- Get regular strength training bouts throughout the week to strengthen weakened postural muscles
- Use your chair and thera band throughout the day to perform simple and quick exercises to help balance out musculature
These are all common issues that every good personal trainer identifies and helps correct every day with clients. The best solution is always to pursue strength training to help strengthen the weaker musculature so your body can be properly balanced. Seek out a good trainer that is aware of these issues and how to help correct them.