Many of us sit for long periods at work during the day. However, this seemingly safe activity can have more risks than you would imagine. Although sitting requires less energy and effort than many other body positions, your muscles do have to work to keep you upright. Over time these muscles fatigue and tire. When the muscles become tire, force that the muscles normally would carry is placed on the joints and ligaments.
There is a tendency to adopt body positions that place more strain on the joints and ligaments rather than the muscle as the ligaments don’t require effort to maintain their position. This may make it seem as though there is less weight. However, the forces and strain are still there, but have moved from the muscles to the joints and ligaments. Over time this can cause ligaments to stretch and lengthen in a process called creep. When ligaments are stretched and lengthened to the point where they cannot return to their normal length, this is called plastic deformation.
Frequent prolonged sitting can cause the muscles that maintain a seated posture to contract and shorten, and the muscles that counteract or produce the opposite motion to stretch and lengthen. Common muscles that can contract and shorten when sitting for prolonged periods include the pectorals, upper trapezius, thoracolumbar extensors, and iliopsoas. Common muscles that can stretch and lengthen include the serratus anterior, gluteals, and abdominals.
Over time extended sitting often leads to a posture with the head forward, shoulders rolled forward and hiked up, and back rounded.
Over time this can affect the muscles function in other body positions and activities such as walking. Shortening and lengthening of muscles can lead to a head forward posture and shoulders rolled forward when walking or standing.
There are things that can be done at home and work to minimize the damaging effects of prolonged sitting. It is good to make a habit of taking regular breaks to rest the postural muscles and stretch to mitigate risk of having conditions such as "frozen shoulder." Sit-stand desks allow you to change positions and give your body a rest from the strain of sitting. Correct positioning of a desk or computer workstation can help to avoid work injuries such as strain on the neck and back and hunched forward posture.
Chiropractic care is an effective way to treat the effects of prolonged sitting and the hunched forward posture that may result. Contact our Chiropractor in Aloha / Beaverton, OR or SE Portland, OR if you are suffering from back pain and strain associated with prolonged sitting at work or home.