Why is sitting for prolonged periods bad for our backs?
Lower back pain can be caused by any number of things. In this article I will be focusing on what I see most commonly with my clients, which is postural/environmental resulting in muscle imbalances.
Let me start by explaining what I mean by postural/environmental and what a muscle imbalance is.
In general, as a society we spend a lot of our day sitting. Whether this is at a desk or in a car, train or plane. In fact in western civilisation we sit on average 23 hours a day. Now at this point you’re probably thinking, as I did when I first heard this stat, how is this possible? I’m not awake 23 hours a day! Let me break it down for you. The majority of us work in an office or on a computer, if this is the case then your day may go something like this.
Sit down, have breakfast
Sit in the car and go to work
Sit at your desk
Go somewhere and sit down for lunch or have lunch at the desk
Sit at your desk
Sit in the car and go home
Sit down, have dinner
Sit on the sofa watch TV
Then go to bed and most of us sleep on our sides with our knees up, guess what, in the sitting position
Then we wake up and the whole thing starts again.
Now some of us feel the urge, and rightly so, to go and do something active after work. Which is great. There’s just one problem with this. Because we are sat down all day certain muscles become inactive and certain muscles become overactive. Unfortunately this means that as far as the brain is concerned the inactive muscles don’t exist. So when we then start exercising or even just walking, our brain uses the overactive muscles instead of the muscles we should be using. This then just compounds the problem and makes the overactive muscles tighter and more overactive, the inactive muscles more overstretched, or as a former colleague of mine put it “the strong get stronger and the weak get weaker”.
So what does this have to do with lower back pain?
Well one of the inactive muscle groups are the glutes. These are the big muscles in your butt. Because the glutes are one of the prime movers of the hips the body has to find alternative ways to move the joint. This usually involves the use of the overactive muscles. These are the Hip Flexors (front of the hip), the Hamstrings (back of the thigh), and a number of muscles in the lower back.
When the Hip Flexors become overactive and shortened they tilt the pelvis forward and this then over arches the lower back thus shortening the muscles in it. As a result of the lower back being shortened but still having to work to move the hip it becomes tired very quickly, which is the reason for the ache and the pain particularly after exercise or walking.
Using a combination of Sports & Remedial Massage and Corrective exercises we can alleviate the tension in the inactive muscles and lengthen the overactive ones restoring the balance and reducing the ache and pain.
Founder & Owner
CORRECTIONS Massage & Fitness