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The Dangers of Prolonged Sitting and How to Avoid the Pain

Prolonged sitting is affecting your hips flexors and back muscles, but there are a number of easy ways we can avoid and reverse these affects.

With more and more people working from home, prolonged sitting has become as serious issue to many people’s health and wellbeing. With greater amounts of time spent sitting at a desk, people are developing tight hip flexor muscles, causing everyday issues and creating severe back problems.

Safework Australia estimates that 50% of Australian workers have a job which involves a long period of sitting. When the body is in a certain position consistently day after day, with little to no periods of active movement, the body starts to think that this position is the norm. When sitting at your desk, your body becomes deconditioned and becomes accustomed to a relaxed state. Your body believes this is how it is meant to be.

As a result of the body becoming adapted to the seated position, the hip flexor muscles begin to shorten and pull on the hips and upper leg region. As a result of this muscle shortness, the hip flexors become tight, causing adverse pressure on the lower back.

One of the more serious issues is that the discs in between the lumbar vertebrae start to bulge, which over time, can becomes a chronic problem. When a disc bulges or even herniates, the muscles around it start to lock up to hold everything in place so we can’t damage it further. Which is fine if we don’t move, but that’s not realistic nor what our bodies were made for. We need to move eventually and pain becomes an inevitable reality.

All these awkward stresses on the body are collectively called “biomechanical instability”. Biomechanical instability encompassed a range of issue derived from prolonged sitting including hip flexor tightness and lower back pain. 

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Luckily, there are simple ways to avoid this type of biomechanical instability.

Early intervention is key.

If you are new to a typically seated job, the easiest and most effective way to avoid hip flexor tightness and lower back pain is to get up and move. Standing desks and such are great and will help, but we also need to make the muscles work so they do not become accustomed to the shortened position. Australia health guidelines recommend at least 10-15 mins of active walking every 30 minutes of sitting. We understand this can be difficult with back to back meetings and conference calls. So find a way that will work for you, try and implement a walking period that aligns with your daily tasks. This might include pacing when on phone calls, or standing while on Zoom calls.

Stretching Regularly

In addition to keeping the muscles active and moving, we can also use seated stretches to assist with biomechanical instability. You can ask you trainer from some examples of some seated stretches or here some specific stretches for the hips and back. https://www.btod.com/blog/12-stretches-back-pain-desk/

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If you are already experiencing hip tightness and lower back pain, we need to act on this issue immediately. There are a wide range of mobility exercises that can be introduced to your everyday life and/or your training program. Some of my favorites are, Cat camels, Lumbar rocks, world’s greatest stretch, hip flexor rocks along which many more.

In addition to using mobility exercises as a relief to these issues, we can also try to use foam rollers and spike ball to isolate areas of issue. Ask your trainer to show you how to use these tools and how to isolate those areas of tightness that a specific for you, either using mobility exercises and/or foam rollers/spike balls.

Get Stronger

As we know, prolonged sitting can cause the hip flexors to become weak and shorten thus causing tightness and pain. You may find stretching and other tools only provide temporary relief. The answer might be that the hip flexors are in fact weak and need to be strengthened. In this case we need to implanted certain exercises to regain strength in our hip flexors and low extremity muscles. Talk to your trainer if this is an issue for you.

Here are 3 exercises that will help with strengthening you hip flexors.

1. Reverse Nordics                                                                 

Reverse Nordics  

2. Bridges Marches

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3. Banded Psoas March

Banded Psoas March

 

As a result of strengthening the lower extremity muscles, in addition to creating a solid foundation of core strength, you will start to experience less tightness through the hips and thus avoid chronic lower back.

So if sitting is becoming an issue for you, talk to your trainer and start to implement strategies that will assist in avoiding these common issues. Everyday intervention in addition to specific training exercises is the best remedy to counteract the effects of prolonged sitting. 

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Ben Twite

Ben Twite

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