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The Sitting Blues

by Eric Winder, DC

 

My new patient had me stumped. Joe had developed intense lower back pain, but when I checked him for muscular imbalance, joint misalignment or restriction in his muscular fascia, he seemed to be in ideal shape. My whole career is based on helping people relieve their pain, so it is rare for me to examine someone with lower back pain and not find an obvious physical problem. But without a clear root cause, in this scenario, I resolved to look deeper.

            I asked Joe more about his desk job. How long did he remain seated for a period of time without standing up? When he told me that, during many projects he might be seated for a continuous stretch four to five hours at a time without moving from his chair, the problem was clear. Joe was sitting too frequently without a break, and this had damaged his back.

            Research in recent years has shown the adverse effects of sitting too much. Frequent amounts of sitting have been linked to increased type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis. In cases like Joe’s, for instance, sitting can also cause back pain due to microscopic damage to the disks of the lower spine. Fortunately, there is a solution to prevent the harmful effects of sitting over an extended period of time. 

            Medical studies indicate that if sitting is interrupted frequently by standing or walking, the effects of prolonged sitting are reduced. For example, much of the damage to these lower back disks is prevented by standing for at least two minutes per hour. Other research suggests that when you interrupt the seated position at least every 30 minutes, this can prevent other health problems such as insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes), heart disease or cancer. 

            To break the habit of sitting too often, I recommend that my patients use a kitchen timer or the timer function on their smartphones to remind them to take breaks from sitting. Two minutes of standing, walking or even lying down will reverse the compression that results from one hour of sitting. When travelling on long-haul flights or drives, it can help to place your hands down on the seat beside you and push your elbows straight to lift your bottom off the seat. When done for about 20 seconds every half hour, this maneuver decompresses your lumbar disks. The end result is less stiffness at the end of an extensive trip.

            In Joe’s case, he learned to use a timer and move from his chair more frequently.  His lower back started to feel better almost immediately, and within three weeks, he was out of pain. Of course, not only did this improve his back, but with these new habits, he is also reducing the likelihood of other health problems in the long-term. And the solution was simple. 

                                                                 

Dr. Eric Winder has accumulated 22 years in practice, and he focuses on relieving the pain of his patience to restore alignment and motion through fascia release therapies, without any forceful manipulation. For more information, visit GentleBay.com.

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