When sitting becomes a pain in the neck

Office chair

A typical physiotherapy clinic receives a big majority of its patients from the white collar working population suffering from back and neck pain.

Why so? Awareness? Affordability?

Well, maybe those factors have a huge role. A market researcher would probably have a better idea.

However, as a physical therapist, I see the world from a perspective of movement (or lack thereof), lifestyle, and function.

The thing that resonates most to me is how directly related spinal problems are to the amount of time my patients spend at work.

When asked what these people do at work, they will usually describe their role in the company or IT skills first rather than the physical position they put their bodies in to complete those tasks.

This, in my opinion, is the start of where things get dangerous.

As sitting becomes more and more of a universal habit, we become less mindful about it sometimes even as our symptoms appear simultaneously.

We will sit for a long time and wonder how did we make it this far as a species while being so mechanically flawed that a majority of modern human beings will experience back pain (often debilitating) some time in their life.

There is a huge discussion going on among experts regarding this topic. Different ideas are being proposed on how to deal with this –chair modifications and sitting posture to name a few.

Truth is there is no gold standard for sitting. Sure, some positions are better tolerated than others but different sitting styles only stress different parts of the body.

The most common solution most of us can agree on so far is breaking up sitting periods into shorter intervals by taking water breaks every half an hour or just standing up to get a good stretch.

From an evolutionary standpoint, we were made to move. Our diet requires us to forage and hunt, anatomically we are made up of multiple spinal segments and joints fortified with flexible yet strong ligaments and muscles all for the efficiency of movement.

We wouldn’t need any of these if we were meant to be immobile on a chair all day and photosynthesise our food from the light of our computer screens.

We’d likely have thicker skin on our buttocks much like the texture of our feet and hands which were meant to bear weight. But instead, we have powder puff clouds for bum skin and beneath that, a ball and socket joint as a hip which moves freely in all three planes.

The point is, sitting alone isn’t the exclusive bad guy in all this. We should be able to get in and out of different postures including sitting, expressing our ability to move freely through our full range of humanly possible movement.

The problem is that we ONLY sit and stay that way for most of our lives now. At work we sit, during meals we sit, driving, toileting, watching movies in cinemas, late night mamak sessions.

The list goes on. Chances are, you are doing it right now.

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