Did you know, sitting at a desk in front of a computer all day brings some specific challenges to your body. Many office workers experience low back pain, upper back pain (between the shoulder blades) and carpal tunnel-like wrist pains, and sometimes even numbness in their hands and fingers. Do you notice these pains?
How long have you worked in an office? Research tends to support the claim that prolonged sitting increases the risk of obesity, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and depression, according to Mayo Clinic. Sitting, or a general sedentary lifestyle, uses less energy than standing or moving. So when muscles are not being used they, in turn, don't use energy, or require metabolic process to be very active. This can lead to sugars being left in the blood, or hormones being metabolized,
The below image is definitely an exaggeration of desk/office posture, so I hope most people aren't sitting like this at their desks, but it does give a fair image of how muscles can be stretched and shortened.
I also don't love the bottom image because, to me, it looks like the lady's neck is craned to the side, which wouldn't be very comfortable, but I digress.
Let's look at office/desk posture.
First, let's talk about sitting, in general. As you can see from this image, we see a few things. First, his shoulders are rounded forward. Second, his head is tipping down to see his phone, and finally, his glutes are elongated as well. This is probably a pretty accurate depiction of many people sitting at desks all day.
Even more, what about some of the set-ups people are using to work from home. Are you sitting at your kitchen or dining room table? Or, sitting at a desk, but in a dining room chair? Or are you so busy, you don't stand up for hours? How about sitting on the couch, with a laptop, either in your lap, or on your coffee table? All of these are terrible options for prolonged hours on the computer.
Which one are you? Which pain is the loudest for you?
Upper Back Pain
Many patients complain of pain between their shoulder blades, or under one or both of their shoulder blades, numbness or tingling in their arms or hands, or even pain moving up into the neck. Pain around the shoulder blades can commonly be coming from one of these muscles at right, trapezius, the lower portion, or rhomboids, often major, but both can be affected. This can often feel like 'knots', lumps or just pain.
Many people spend lots of time with their shoulders rounded forward, like in the picture of the guy in the airport, and when the shoulders are rounded, the muscles in the diagram are stretched. When muscles are stretched for long periods of time they become weak, and weakness leads to pain. This also happens in glutes because they are also stretched while sitting.
Lower Back Pain
When standing, our glutes are in their neutral position. A mid length position, where they can be nice and active, through each position, like swinging our leg while walking. At the bottom/outside of the lower hip, they become our IT band, so they can also contribute to knee pain as well.
When sitting, our glutes are stretched and much longer than when standing, Long stretched muscles, as above, leads to weakness. Weakness leads to pain, or other muscles are recruited to do the job of glutes, like low back, or hamstrings. You may also notice pain in the front of the hip joint (hip flexors) when getting up from sitting
What can we do about it?
Massage Therapy is a great way to work though some of those pains you are currently feeling. After your massage, begin a specific exercise routine to help decrease weakness and create better posture. Some good exercises are shown in the infographic below. Your massage therapist, physiotherapist or chiropractor may have their own preferred exercises. You may wish to read this post next about why strength exercises are so much better than stretches for actually stopping your pain and preventing it from returning.
I am so glad you made it to the end. Book an appointment at the top of the page!