Regardless of what job you do, a good portion of adults spend a big chunk of time sitting at their computer these days. Even if you’re being super productive and not procrastinating on Pinterest or Twitter, sitting isn’t doing you any favors. One of the things you see most often as a way to combat the negative effects of sitting your butt in a chair all day is to get up and walk around regularly throughout the day.
While this is great advice, it isn’t a cure-all that will prevent you from suffering from some of the typical sit-too-much ailments (which can range from increased risk of cardiovascular disease to the all too common low back pain). But did you also know that it can lead to depression? Sciatica? Thoracic outlet syndrome? Sitting at your desk can literally be a pain in the butt. And the neck, arm, shoulder, head, and more. So how do you fix it? And more importantly, prevent it from happening in the first place (or again)? Since one of your friendly Daily Genius editors (me) has spent a good chunk of their career helping people get and stay out of pain (as an orthopedic bodyworker), we know that there are some great, easy ways to nip that pain in the rear in the butt (see what I did there?).
Sitting properly is key
Everyone knows that they should be standing and sitting up straight. After all, your mother/grandmother/mother/mother/mother probably has told you that more times than they can count. Even though you stopped listening after the fifth time, I’ll assure you that your mother wasn’t wrong. But do you actually know how to stand up or sit up correctly?
The lovely lady above does a good job of showing you how to sit up straight, but knowing how she got there is the key to being able to get yourself in the right position for pain prevention and relief. Here are some quick tips to get you there:
- First, sit so that your feet are on the floor and your legs are at about a 90 degree angle.
- Second, roll your pelvis a bit forward. You can exaggerate this a bit to get a feel for what the extreme version would feel like, but you shouldn’t go ‘all the way’. At this point, you may feel as though you’re sticking your belly out a bit.
- Third, engage your abdominal muscles. Once you roll your pelvis forward, you should feel as though the ab engagement makes you MUCH more stable, and that ‘belly out’ feeling should be gone.
When you first start working on correcting your posture, it will feel like, well, work. You may have some muscle soreness (probably in the erector spinae, around your spine) or feel like you’re spending a lot of time concentrating on how to sit. Fear not, all that will pass, and the good posture you’re working on will soon become habit!
Get a massage
When I say “get a massage” I don’t mean that you should go hunt down a Groupon for a cheap back rub or hit up your local expensive spa where they give you cucumber water and you fall asleep ten minutes into your massage and walk out a little stoned-seeming. There are lots of different types of massage, and finding a great one can be a challenge – you may need to have several so-so massages before finding someone great. You want someone who is very knowledgeable about the body and how it works – your significant other can rub your back gently, so if you’re paying, find someone who can do a lot more than that.
You can check out organizations like American Massage Therapy Association and the Associated Bodywork Massage Professionals, who both maintain lists of their members and is often a good place to start. Many physical therapy clinics and chiropractic offices have in-house massage therapists, and these folks tend to be very knowledgeable. You’ll want to look for someone who offers therapeutic massage, sports massage, orthopedic massage, or something similar. Don’t be afraid to ask them about their training, specializations, and anything else that will help you understand that they know what they’re doing.
When you sit, certain muscle groups are in a stretched position. Over time, this will cause those muscles to weaken. Think of it this way: If you have a rubber band that you continually stretch to the maximum stretching capacity on a regular basis, eventually it will stay more stretched out, unable to return to its formerly taut, shorter state.
Your glutes and hamstrings are likely the most effected in the lower body, and muscles in your upper back will take a hit in the upper body (rhomboids, lower trapezius, ). Strengthen these muscles. A personal trainer can help you find the right exercises and show you proper form in just a couple of sessions.
Many people will recommend stretching for muscle pain, and while it should be an important part of your routine, you can stretch until you’re blue in the face but if you’re stretching already overstretched muscles, you’re not helping them. Strengthening is just as important – if not more so- than stretching when it comes to finding balance in your body. Don’t skip it.
This is the one that we hear quite often (as mentioned above). For those of us who sit for long periods of time, the front of the body tends to end up needing a good stretch. In the upper body, the pecs, upper traps, and levator scapulae (think of the upper shoulder area) will likely need some stretchy love, and in the lower body, the hip flexors, since we shorten them while we’re seated. Hit up a yoga class, a mobility class at the gym, or if all else fails, there are some decent resources online to help you learn to stretch. You can also ask your massage therapist for some good stretches that target your neediest areas.