Sitting down whenever we have the opportunity to do so can help us feel more relaxed and settled. But cozying up for hours on a couch or on a chair all day long causes more problems than just an ordinary stiff neck, tight shoulder and back pain.
According to Joan Vernikos, a published author and former NASA scientist, people are not designed to stay and hold one position for any length of time. Eventually, doing so causes discomfort and pain.
She said that prolonged sitting can lead to health problems like back soreness, bone and muscle degeneration. In fact, this is a problem most astronauts suffer from after spending quite some time in microgravity.
Most people today are sitting down daily for ten hours or more. This stems from the fact that most of the working class citizens today, especially in the U.S. are seated behind a desk, in front of a computer for eight hours.
After work, the same people go home, prepare their dinners and sit down once again to enjoy their TV shows or read a good book. The illnesses that we have come to recognize today, such as obesity, diabetes, stroke, and cancer are caused by this kind of passive lifestyle.
Though these take years to develop, the back pain caused by sitting can immediately be felt, especially when one attempts to get up. Aside from the lifestyle diseases, here are other problems caused by chronic sitting down.
Sitting for hours does help relax your body, but it does nothing for your nerves. It is not normal for the body to stay immobile for hours.
Because it is not normal for the body to stay immobile for hours, sitting down does nothing for your nerves. It can make you feel relaxed now, but this causes muscle strains and pinched nerves later on.
A “pinched nerve” occurs when too much compression is applied to a nerve root by its surrounding tissues. In this case, a herniated spinal disc can compress a nerve.
The good news is, a nerve that is pinched for a short time will leave no lasting damage. However, prolonged pressure on your nerves can cause permanent damage.
Kills Your Hip Function
Have you noticed that the longer you sit down, the more difficult it is to get back up? For you to stand, your muscles need to extend. But prolonged sitting places your hip joints into “flexion”. And because the muscles do not get enough movement, they remain locked.
Sitting down for many hours unfortunately kills the life of your muscles by shortening them. This means it makes it more difficult for your muscles to extend and flex, and in return, your back and hip muscles become stiff.
When your hip extensors are stiff and shortened, it locks the muscles located in front of your hips called the hip flexors. If you allow this to happen, you are basically causing yourself back pain and disrupting your hip’s full range of motion.
Slouching And Poor Posture
Your body is in a proper posture when it follows the spine’s natural inward curve. But sitting down causes you to unconsciously slouch. Your spine will start to curve the wrong way and cause back pain.
But your body will unconsciously slouch and the spine will start to curve in the wrong direction. Staying seated for many hours with a poor posture will eventually cause lower back pain.
Try to keep your spine healthy while sitting down by minding your posture. Consider gravity as an invisible force that pulls in a downward direction, like a vertical rod and align your body vertically to spare your back from all this pain.
Try to maintain your spine’s natural curve by standing for every 45 minutes of sitting down. Mind your posture and try not to slouch. Put a pillow at your back to support your back.
Squeezes Your Lumbar Discs
When your body is in an upright position, it puts your spine in proper alignment. This minimizes the pressure it would normally endure. Sitting down on the other hand forces your spine to compress. This compression in your vertebrae causes your discs to squeeze.
A compressed spine is one of the biggest culprits of chronic back pain because it damages the cartilage that cushions your vertebrae. When the discs are damaged, your spine cannot withstand the shock it normally can easily endure.
According to Vernikos, the reason behind our body’s response to prolonged sitting down is due to our natural instinct to move. Prehistorically, we moved a lot to hunt for food and to seek shelter. The pain is caused by our body’s innate need to survive from injuries.