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Physical Therapy

Is sitting the new smoking?

Lower back pain is the most common physical therapy diagnosis in the United States. There is an 80% chance that someone has had at least one episode of low back pain at some point in their lives. Neck pain is another extremely common diagnosis in physical therapy, and can contribute to shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand pain. Unfortunately, the need to work seated at a desk can put unnecessary strain on back and neck muscles. This can subsequently affect daily life in a negative way, preventing you from completing your activities of daily living, and preventing you from participating in hobbies and sports you love. Fortunately, there are things you can do now to prevent back and neck pain from starting or worsening.

One of the most important things to work on is your activity level throughout the day. You may have heard the trendy headline “sitting is the new smoking.” While sitting for several hours a day is not good for your joints and muscles, standing all day is not an option either. Standing for a long time can fatigue the muscles supporting the spine and joints in the body, also contributing to pain.

So, what’s the answer? The best thing to do is to move frequently. It is recommended that you alternate your posture throughout the day, for example, sitting for 30 minutes, and then standing for 30 minutes at a standing desk. There are many products on the market which sit on top of your existing desk, which allow the computer to move up and down to allow you to change positions. Frequent mobility throughout the day ensures that you maintain your circulation, strength, and productivity.

If you cannot utilize a sit to stand desk, try standing up every 30 minutes and doing some stretches. Check out our instagram for a video on desk stretches here. Use this time to get a glass of water and give your eyes a break from looking at the computer screen.

When sitting, your chair should help you maintain the S-shaped curve of the spine. Many chairs that claim they have lumbar support do not have quite enough padding. Tuck a rolled up towel, T-shirt, or something similar behind the lower back. Push your hips all the way to the back of the chair, then lean your upper back on the upper part of the chair, keeping good posture. When you relax your muscles, the towel should maintain the natural curve of the lower back.

Another option, or in addition to the low back roll, is to put the towel roll vertically along the upper back, to promote an upright shoulder and chest position. The towel roll should support your upper back posture and encourage you to wrap your shoulder blades around the towel roll, to open the chest up. Keeping your upper back more upright will help promote a better neck position as well.

Try these easy changes to prevent low back and neck pain, and let us know in the comments how they are working out for you. If you are having any back or neck pain when working, contact us at Potentia Therapeutics to schedule your physical therapy evaluation.