Almost every patient who comes into our office spends a lot of time sitting down. Either they are in the office all day at a computer or design desk, or they spend a lot of time traveling in their car. Sometimes they are mothers sitting with children much of the time. Some people are in the habit of watching many hours of television, or spend most of their free time at a computer. Whatever the reason, I find myself teaching my patients how to incorporate some extra movement into their lives. Use the stairs rather than using elevators and escalators; taking five minutes of break from the computer screen; doing some stretching and walk to the local shops. All are important ways of combating our sedentary lives here in Dubai. Most of my patients have tried to so some gym based exercise as well, but often they come to us because they have done too much exercise too late!
Back pain Prolonged sitting in one position strains muscles in the low back, gluteals, the upper back and the neck. If ignored this leads to chronic low back pain involving the sacro-iliac joints, the lumbar spine and depending on the positions you adopt, the dorsal and cervical spine are often affected. Muscle strain leads to spasm and trigger points, which in turn can block the pelvic and spinal joints. We call this facet syndrome and it can be very painful. It is one of the most common problems we treat at the clinic. Left untreated, it can also result in degenerative disc disease, disc herniation and facet joint arthritis. In old age we see spinal spondylosis and other syndromes which are often only due to lack of proper spinal movement and care. Neck and arm pain If you are looking at a screen and typing or using a mouse all day, you can bet that you will eventually get headaches. These originate in your neck muscles and joints. You may also experience repetitive strain injury, which arises because you hold the hand and arm in the same position for too long. Headache We all realize that headache has a number of precipitating factors, not the least of which is stress. Many people do not realize the large role that posture and muscle tension in the neck can play. Again, left untreated, muscle spasm results in blocked joints, especially at the top and the base of your neck. Eliminating these blocks, or fixations as we chiropractors call them, has an enormous positive effect on the strength and frequency of your headaches. The treatment is our responsibility, but advising and initiating good ergonomic and postural habits always forms a great part of our treatment strategy. Not only pain! The British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that people who sit still for prolonged periods of time suffer from heart disease, cancer and metabolic syndrome, which in turn can lead to diabetes. ‘Prolonged sitting promotes a lack of whole-body muscle movement, Bad behavioral habits include TV watching, computer gaming and social networking addicts and recent evidence has shown that sitting in front of the TV for hours on end can raise your risk of early death from cardiovascular diseases. Research has also shown that a woman’s risk of metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes and heart disease, rises sharply to 26% for every extra hour she sits in front of the TV. Whole-body muscular inactivity associated with prolonged sitting has also been strongly linked to obesity and even certain types of cancer.’ So it is not just a pain in the neck (or back!). Sitting down for long periods can seriously damage your health. Even if it does not get to that stage, it will lower your quality of life and sense of wellbeing.