Sitting is the New Smoking

Americans who own a computer or media device sit for more than 14 hours a day on average, and recent studies show that if you sit for an average of more than 8 hours a day it can have the same negative affects to our long-term health as smoking. This sounds ridiculous of course; however modern research strongly supports this, hence the new medical term, ‘sitting is the new smoking.’

Poor posture is simply a consequence of repetitive stress, and the biggest repetitive stress we encounter day in and day out is sitting. The number one reason for employee absenteeism in America is musculoskeletal pain. These are caused from poor posture and the compensatory patterns the body adapts from them, such as forward head posture, or what we now call within the health care community, ‘tech neck.’ Essentially, the more time we spend sitting, such as working at our desks, the greater the risk of poor posture.

The way this happens is due to two main factors. Simply put, it is due to the fact that the majority of what we do today is in front of our bodies, such as looking down at our computers for 40+ hours a week. This creates the dominant, bigger muscles in our bodies such as our chest and shoulders that are being used too much to. over time, become dominant over the muscles in the back of our bodies. At the same time this is happening, the muscles that counteract this, which are all of our postural muscles that are responsible for keeping us upright and in good posture, mainly in the front of the neck and between our shoulder blades, become weak. Our bodies are very economical, and when we don’t use something consistently, through an activity such as sitting, the body allows the muscle group to become weak. So as the front of our bodies work too hard and become dominant, the back of our bodies become weak and lazy. This negative cycle over time creates poor posture and as we will discuss at length, poor posture is the root cause of many of our health issues.

If you are one of the average Americans who has to sit for over 14 hours a day, then how we sit is vitally important. The repetitive stress of poor posture is the root cause of many of our health issues, which we have just discussed at length in our previous blog post. So, figuring out ways to sit properly is where we must start. Most forward-thinking companies now have qualified people within HR (Human Resources) that will perform ergonomic assessments for you to make sure you are in proper posture. So, I would start by speaking with HR and seeing if they can be of help. If HR is unable to do this, doctors at Advanced Health are qualified in performing ergonomic assessments with specific software that will bio-mechanically assess your posture and give real time feedback. We would be more than happy to come into your company and assess you and your fellow co-workers’ posture and ergonomics. If you would like to assess your own workstation set up, then a quick Google search for ‘appropriate sitting ergonomics’ will provide you with many images of exactly how you should be spending your day sitting.

We have previously mentioned the term, ‘sitting is the new smoking’, so doing less sitting should also be a goal we try to achieve on a day to day basis. This is easily done with acquiring a stand-up desk. In the state of Illinois if a physician provides you with a specific form stating that you require a stand-up desk for health reasons then your company is required to provide you with one. We encourage all of our patients to speak with their HR department to see if this form is needed, however many companies now are more than happy to provide you with a stand-up desk as research clearly shows that musculoskeletal health issues affect their bottom line more than anything else. When you have a stand-up desk, do not try and stand all day, as this will also create compensatory issues due to poor posture when standing. Before you start standing have HR perform an assessment to make sure everything is set up correctly. If that is not an option, do a quick google search on ‘stand-up desk ergonomics’, and make sure to mimic the appropriate set up. Also, make sure to work into standing for extended periods of time. Start with the last ten minutes of every hour, and then each week if no discomfort is felt, add 5-10 minutes until you can split the hour in half between sitting and standing. Lastly, when standing make sure to have an even weight load on each foot, and your pelvis tucked underneath your low back. Many people tend to lean to one side and load one hip with most of their weight, this will cause pain in the hips and low back. Also make sure that you do not have your butt sticking out and hips rocked forwards as this will create stress and tension in the lower portion of your low back and inside of your knees, and over time this will cause pain and dysfunction. Make sure your shoulders are down and back, with your shoulder blades flush against your back and not winging out as this will cause upper back pain. Lastly make sure your ear is directly above your shoulders and chin is a minimum of four fingers off your chest as this will cause neck pain. The alignment of your shoulders and neck should also be performed when sitting.

A great chiropractor once said, procrastination is the thief of health. Unfortunately, today we are in a health care system that is more reactive then proactive, and we tend to take care of our health concerns when they are an issue and have become a problem. We would all save vast amounts of time, energy and money if we addressed possible health problems before they become an issue. At Advanced Health we educate our patients on the importance of being proactive at work and making sure the muscles we need to support posture are been activated and used every day. Our bodies are designed to be economical, so when we are not using a specific muscle or muscle group, through inactivity it becomes weak and lazy. We also stress the importance of maintaining healthy range of motion within all of our joints, as once we start to lose flexibility within a joint it creates a negative cycle of compensatory patterns, which over time will break us down and create health issues.

On this note, we recommend to all of our corporate athletes, people like yourself that have to sit for a living, to make sure you are making time to spend five minutes each day performing a simple stretch routine and to perform some postural reeducation exercises while at work to make sure that the joints within your body have good flexibility and the muscles support us in good posture. If you head to our website, and download our guide to ‘getting out of pain’ it will take you through some great stretches and exercises that are easily performed at work. Alternatively, head to our YouTube channel, and view the stretches and exercises we recommend for maintaining good flexibility and posture at work.

If you feel as though you have poor posture and are suffering with any health issues we have previously mentioned in our blog or simply want to look better aesthetically or perform better physically, know that the doctors here at Advanced Health Chiropractic have helped thousands of your Chicagoland friends and neighbors with all forms of postural issues and helped them to get out of pain and start living life as they should be able to, without limitation.

At Advanced Health Chiropractic we pride ourselves on a detailed and thorough initial consultation, including a detailed health history, orthopedic and neurological testing followed by some state-of-the-art imaging, which allows us to pinpoint your issue, allowing for a clear diagnosis and a specific course of treatment addressing the root cause of your issue and a tailored plan to achieve all your health and wellness goals. We use a blend of chiropractic care and physical therapy to achieve your goals, including state of the art spinal traction and soft tissue therapy, which allows us to offer objective long-term results. If you feel as though you have poor posture or are suffering with any other form of pain and have tried other forms of treatment with other providers and are frustrated with trying to get the issue corrected, we encourage you to give us a call so we can help you live life as it’s intended, pain free.

We look forward to meeting you here at the clinic and being the resource you have been searching for.

(312) 987-4878