WE HURT BECAUSE WE SIT
The lifestyle mankind recently developed has us sitting hunched forward for many hours per day. We start by forcing young children to sit all day in classes and if they are the “best and the brightest” we reward them by seating them in college for several years. We tend to believe the best jobs would not depend on physical labor and so we encourage pursuit of the salaried desk job. For most, travel now includes almost no walking but may involve hours of sitting in a car, sometimes not moving at all in traffic jams. Tired and overwhelmed, we arrive home to recline further in the sitting position in front of the television. Before lying to sleep, some of us will read in bed—more sitting.
But this is not how we are designed. For the last 30,000 years our ancestors walked upright to look across the savannah for potential dangers and sources of food, occasionally essays writing service climbing rocks and trees to get out of harm’s way. For over 5000 years we developed small communities and cultivated food in the form of crops, spending the majority of the day working outside. Just 100 years ago, some began to work inside factories, hunched over machines. Then we made chairs to sit…sit anywhere instead of the natural position of squatting. And now we all spend the majority of the day sitting, rarely moving the way our bodies were designed.
As a result of prolonged sitting, the muscles of the front of the body stay shortened and contracted for long hours causing a constant reduction of blood flow to the compressed muscle tissue. The posterior muscles on the back of the neck, shoulders, spine and buttocks are overstretched most of the time and now have a tendency to cramp. When we stand up to utilize our now out-of-shape muscles, they are already fatigued, congested with toxins, and asked to do more than they are in conditioned for. The natural mechanisms intended to stabilize our back and protect it from strain as we lift and stand are no longer working, as we have numbed them from the constant pressure of sitting for years as children.
As we approach our 30’s and 40’s, our spine changes slightly from its intended shape. We lose the curve in our neck that provides a spring-like protection from damage. Our upper back stays hunched over just a bit, even when we try to stand up tall. Our shoulders are rolled inward toward the front and are no longer in the ideal position to do work with our arms. Our lower back has an exaggerated curve which alters the angle that the entire upper body experiences each time we place a foot on the ground. Simple weekend activities now wear on all the joints as they are all “out of position” from their intended design—off only by a few degrees–but enough to increase the load they bear dramatically. As we do less manual labor, the muscles surrounding each joint, even the tiny ones around each vertebrae of the spine, are out of shape and cannot absorb the impact they were intended for. We all get arthritis at accelerated rates, worsened further by eating inflammatory foods with un-natural ingredients.
Some will say they have problems because they played football in high school, others because they lifted patients as a nurse. But this is not really accurate–it is because we sit. Our deconditioned and warped frames can no longer take the impact they once could, and they struggle to recover from injuries for the very same reasons. And even when we are left with no other option than joint replacement or surgical decompression, we fail to recover completely as we continue the same harmful behaviors in the aftermath.
Whether you feel muscle tension in the back of your neck, you have hand numbness and tingling when you lay on your shoulder, or develop pain in your lower back from leaning over a counter doing a simple task—the methods for improvement are the same. Even after surgical intervention, the TWO WAYS TO GET BETTER are the same.
- Challenge your balance! Work on overall muscle conditioning so that each joint experiences less impact. (This is NOT best accomplished by working out in a gym, strengthening a few large muscle groups so you look more attractive!) Any activity that challenges your balance is best– rollerblading, skating, even free-weights. When you eliminate the need to balance (ex. reclined bicycle) you fail to develop the smaller more important muscles that stabilize a joint. Yoga stretches and movements are the best as these movements develop muscles, ligaments, and tendons that surround each little facet of each joint in a way that typical gym work-outs cannot. Most elite athletes do yoga daily.
- Lengthen out the front! -Stretch, stretch, stretch and lengthen out the anterior muscles of the front of your body that stay shortened as you sit. Front of the neck, front of the shoulder, abdomen, hip flexors, and quadratus lumborum are most critical and must be stretched out and allowed to get good circulation many (I repeat, many) l times a day.
Massage is a good way to mechanically lengthen the anterior muscles, although most people focus on the back of the neck & back due to the immediate soreness. For sore muscles, submerse in tub of hot water for 5 min (100 degrees F), apply hot packs (rice or dried corn or bean bags) and any magic lotion you prefer (CBD creams, aspercreme, Ben Gay, Voltaren prescription gel)
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