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The Dangers of Prolonged Sitting

Let’s have a talk about sitting.

The human body is not designed to be sedentary, yet our culture pushes us to sit down. Between increased smartphone usage, time spent watching TV (Netflix counts, folks!), and jobs that keep us desk-bound, the average American now spends more 8 hours a day sitting. This is a conservative figure; some sources estimate the true average is closer to 13 hours. Couple this with 8 hours of sleep, and that puts most people in the country being completely inactive for 16-21 hours a day. As you may expect, this has some serious consequences on our health.

Prolonged sitting almost always leads to poor posture decisions. Our necks crane forward, our shoulders round, our spines buckle. All of this puts unnecessary and harmful stress on our musculoskeletal system, leading to pain and altered anatomy over time. Changes that can occur include decreased mobility in the spine, weakness of the glutes, uneven compression of vertebral discs, and more. Below is a detailed look of how prolonged sitting influences our musculoskeletal system:

posture-image-blog-nashville-tn-east-end-chiro

  • Strained Neck – Craning the neck forward or looking down at a computer screen or phone increases the pressure on the cervical spine. This can lead to areas of hypo-mobility (defined as decreased movement in one or more of the joints), creating pain and discomfort. This may also lead to tension headaches.
  • Sore Shoulders – When the neck comes forward, the shoulders often follow. This causes the cervical flexors and rhomboid muscles of the lower shoulder to weaken and the pectoralis muscles of the chest and the upper trapezius muscles of the shoulder to become tight, a condition called Upper Crossed Syndrome. This syndrome causes the shoulders to continue to come forward and puts pressure on the spine, causing discomfort.
  • Abdominal Degeneration – Slumping in a chair doesn’t require any abdominal engagement, eventually causing the muscles to become loose and weak. Coupled with tight back muscles, this creates a pull on the spine, increasing the natural arch to unsafe levels.
  • Inflexible Spine – The discs between the vertebrae in the spine are malleable to give the spine its flexibility. When sitting for prolonged periods, discs are compressed and collagen can harden around the tendons and ligaments, reducing the amount of room discs have to inhabit and keeping them in a compressed state.
  • Lumbar Disc Herniation – In one of our recent blog posts we went into depth on the subject of how tight hip flexors can cause low back pain. The shortening of the psoas muscle that occurs when sitting for prolonged periods can cause massive pulling on the lumber spine, creating instances of hypo-mobility and increasing risk of disc herniation.

The musculoskeletal system takes a big hit during prolonged sitting, but there are other negative effects to our health as well, some of which are listed below:

  • Heart Disease – Blood flows more slowly while sitting for long periods of time, making it easier for plaque to become lodged in the arteries. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels are likely to rise with prolonged sitting, increasing risk of heart disease.
  • Increased Insulin Production – Insulin is necessary to transport glucose to cells for energy, but when too much is produced the body becomes less sensitive to it, creating a cycle of overproduction. This can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes as our cells lose responsiveness to insulin, resulting in glucose in the blood rising to dangerous levels.
  • Decreased Brain Function – When we move, our muscles keep blood and oxygen circulating at appropriate speeds. Sitting for prolonged periods slows down circulation, causing less oxygen to get to our brains, decreasing function. While this is unlikely to be dangerous, it will be harder to concentrate and you may feel like your creativity is stagnant.

There are treatments for many of these ailments, but the key to health is prevention. We understand not everyone has the ability to be active throughout the day. Many of us must sit for our jobs, and in the evenings we enjoy coming home to relax. In these situations, it is crucial to break up the time spent sitting. We recommend at least 5 minutes of activity (walking, stretching) for every hour of sitting. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to stand up and move around once per hour. While mildly inconvenient, this can have huge benefits for your health. It is also important to sit with proper posture to thwart negative effects to the musculoskeletal system.

If you are reading this and recognize consequences of prolonged sitting manifesting in your body, call the proper specialist to help reverse and prevent exacerbations these conditions, a Chiropractic Physician. They will be able to assess your condition and prescribe treatment. This will often include adjustment to mobilize the joints in the spine that have a limited range of motion as well as strengthening and stretching exercises designed to improve posture. Coupled with more frequent movement throughout the day, these treatments can keep our bodies healthy, even if we must sit for work.

If you are more of a visual or audible learner, we have included links to other resources on this issue:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/apps/g/page/national/the-health-hazards-of-sitting/750/

https://youtu.be/uiKg6JfS658

https://youtu.be/4K_ENbRgywY

By Katherine Adams on October 24th, 2016 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment

Don’t Crack Your Own Neck, Part 3

Earlier, in part 2 of this series, we discussed the second of the 3 issues regarding self-manipulation of your spine: 1) Is it safe? 2) Is it useful? 3) Is it a sign of a deeper problem? Finally, we’re going to talk about the bigger picture regarding cracking your own neck and back.

Spinal Reconditioning - Nashville TN - East End Chiropractic

Is the need to self-manipulate the neck or back indicative of a deeper problem?

Yes.  As explained earlier, we often develop abnormal motion patterns in the spine, which cause some spinal joints to become too tight, and some joints to become too loose.

As for the loose (hypermobile) joints, this causes unconscious distress to your body.  When your brain senses that there is too much slack in a joint that is so close to your spinal nerves, it will take measures to stabilize that joint.  At first, these measures are limited to inflammation and muscle spasm.  If not addressed soon enough, the spinal bones will actually change shape and begin to lock together to stabilize the joint.  This is known as degenerative joint disease.  Degenerative joint disease can be quite painful and can greatly limit your ability to do the things you need to do and want to do.

Tight (hypomobile) joints can be adjusted/manipulated by a qualified chiropractor or osteopath.  Restoring normal motion to hypomobile joints allows hypermobile joints to “rest,” in that they do not have to move so much to maintain your normal activities.

In summary, self -manipulation will probably not cause immediate harm.  Long-term self-manipulation can cause harm by further moving joints that move too much already.  A qualified chiropractic or osteopathic physician can recondition the spinal bones to move normally, usually eliminating the urge to self-manipulate in the first place.

By John Olsen on April 1st, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

Don’t Crack Your Own Neck, Part 2

Last time, we asked the question, “Is self-manipulation safe?” Now we’ll discuss the second of these 3 issues regarding self-manipulation: 1) Is it safe? 2) Is it useful? 3) Is it a sign of a deeper problem?

Is self-manipulation of the spine useful?

Neck Joint Pain - Nashville TN - East End Chiropractic

To answer this question requires us to explore the physics of the joints in the neck and back.  The spine is made up of 24 movable bones that are connected by over 150 articulations (joints). Each of these joints is surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue and contains fluid. Each joint should move (some more than others).  If a joint is moving normally, it typically does not make any noise. If a joint is “stuck” (hypomobile) or if a joint is moved past it’s normal range of motion (paraphysiological space is the fancy term for this), it usually makes a “cracking” sound.  The sound itself is simply a bubble of air moving through the joint capsule. So far, we have described nothing harmful.

This is where things get tricky.  For most of us, our daily activities of life require lots of sitting, lots of staring at computers, lots of driving, etc. These activities, for the most part, do not promote good spinal posture and motion patterns.  Over time, spinal motion patterns can become altered to the point that some spinal joints move very little-to-none (hypomobile), while others compensate by moving too much (hypermobile).  Joints that are hypermobile often make “cracking” sounds when they move.

For many, there is a gratification with this “cracking” or “popping” sound (“cavitation” in medical speak).  It is easy to interpret this noise as “realigning a misaligned vertebra” or “releasing built-up tension.” In fact, some studies have suggested that joint cavitation releases endorphins, the body’s natural opiates/painkillers.

The goal of a spinal manipulation, performed by a licensed chiropractic physician or osteopathic physician, is to introduce motion to spinal joints that are hypomobile (stuck, or non-moving) while not moving the joints that are hypermobile (move too much).  Knowing which joints to move and which ones to leave alone requires a lot of experience.  Moving a hypomobile joint without disturbing the hypermobile joints around it is very difficult to achieve, and cannot be performed by oneself because of the limitations of leverage.

When spinal adjusting/manipulation is performed by oneself or someone who is unqualified (and especially by someone who thinks they’re qualified but they’re really not), most of the force of this manipulation is distributed through the joints that already move too much, actually worsening the problem in the long-run.  Commonly the self-manipulator feels more and more frequent urges to manipulate – sometimes 20 or more times per day!  The frequency of self-manipulation tends to increase with time.

When performed properly, spinal manipulation/adjustments are very effective in alleviating the tension/discomfort in the spine that cause one to attempt to self manipulate in the first place.  With quality chiropractic care, the need for manipulation/adjustment decreases as normal motion patterns are restored to the spine.

By John Olsen on March 27th, 2013 | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

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