Throughout most of human history, we have been involved in “back-breaking” work. From plowing the fields to journeying to a well, conveniently located 40 miles away from the nearby village, all the while carrying a bucket or two (to fill it with water… You get it.). Nowadays, the sedentary lifestyle or sitting too much, however you like to call it, is something that is a regular part of most of people’s lives.
However, even in the modern times, with the workforce switching to a more sedentary work environment (i.e. office, or more precisely office chairs), have we really been able to ditch the “back-breaking” part of our work? Well, unfortunately, no, we haven’t.
Sitting In An Office Chair All Day: 5 Most Common Problems
If your work hours are spent in an office chair, it’s more than likely that you have experienced at least one of these problems. Although not necessarily life-threatening, some of these problems, such as lower back issues or neck pain problems, if not treated or prevented in time, can cause more serious health issues, apart from only minor pain and discomfort in the beginning.
1. Lumbar Spine and Lower Back Issues
The lumbar spine (L1 to L5) is responsible for carrying a big part of your body’s weight. With no other skeletal structures nearby, it carries most of your body’s weight.
The lumbar spine is best explained as that one coworker that always complains about doing the work of 5 people and never getting any appreciation for it (but in this case the lumbar spine actually does most of the work).
From the Lumbar spine start 5 pairs of nerves (L1 to L5) that innervate the lower extremities . Most lower back issues are directly connected to the inflammation of one of these nerves.
Symptoms can vary, but they mostly include pain, a feeling of numbness, and pressure. Problems can spread to different parts of the body, depending on which of the 5 nerves is inflamed.
To give you a quick example, L4 and L5 spinal nerves contribute to the formation of the large sciatic nerve . The sciatic nerve starts in the pelvis region, goes through the back part of the leg, and finally ends in the foot.
Inflammation of L4 or L5 nerves can in turn cause pain that can spread through the back part of your leg.
In short, an inflammation of nerves in your lower back can affect different parts of your body, causing more problems (pain, discomfort) the longer it goes untreated.
Sitting too much serves only to exacerbate these problems.
2. Cervical spine and Neck Issues
The cervical spine, neck region, or neck is another part of your body that can suffer greatly from long hours of sitting in an office chair.
Neck is rarely supported by strong muscle structures (unless you are a bodybuilder).
A sedentary lifestyle or sitting too much, if you like, often requires (if not always) looking at the computer screen. That fixated position leads to already weak muscle structures becoming even weaker.
Add to that an unnatural hand movement (while typing, scrolling), and you’ve got yourself some good old-fashioned neck pain problems.
But, it doesn’t stop there. Other symptoms can also include numbness and/or pain in your hand or fingers (people often mistake these symptoms for a sign of a heart attack which also includes numbness of fingers and hand).
Because your body tends to stick to the position that causes the least discomfort (or strain) to the muscles, this can bring about a big and negative change to your posture and you will experience big neck pain problems.
If untreated, bad posture will become permanent.
3. Muscle Spasm
A muscle spasm is most often defined as an involuntary movement of one or more muscles. It can happen anywhere in your body .
In the case of sitting too much, muscle spasms are more often than not associated with the muscles around the spinal column and/or shoulder girdle. The most prevalent symptom (aside from twitching) is pain.
Stretching can sometimes help with muscle spasms, but it can, unfortunately, also cause even more pain and discomfort.
If you are experiencing muscle spasms, it’s best to consult a professional so as not to worsen your condition. An experienced physical therapist will help determine which muscle or muscles in the body are affected and will recommend treatment accordingly.
4. Vertigo, Headache, and Visual Obscuration
All of these problems are connected to a decreased blood flow to your brain, which can directly be caused by a lengthy period of sitting in an office chair (or any chair for that matter).
Decreased blood flow happens as a result of magistral arteries being jeopardized and/or in some ways “clogged”. Apart from unhealthy eating habits, the main cause behind this is (you’ve guessed it) a sedentary lifestyle or sitting too much.
Symptoms usually include numbness and/or tingling in your lower extremities. To combat this it’s important to stretch as regularly as you can, air out the room to get more oxygen (oxygen increases blood flow), and drink enough water.
5. Leg Swelling
Leg swelling affects both sexes but is a little bit more prevalent in women. This problem is caused by prolonged pressure on the upper leg which is a direct result of sitting for too long.
Sitting for long periods causes the peripheral circulation of blood to be slowed down, which can result in fluid build-up in the lower extremities and consequently swelling.
The peripheral vascular system is responsible for delivering blood to your hands, feet, legs, and arms. It relies heavily on muscle contraction to do so, which is why extended periods of inactivity (i.e. sitting in an office chair) can cause some pretty major issues.
The Bottom Line
The goal of this article wasn’t to scare you (so don’t go all paranoid on me) but to raise awareness about issues connected with sedentary work environments and lifestyle.
Luckily for you, most (if not all) of these problems can be easily prevented, with a small attitude change. Well, an attitude change and some exercise, but a sedentary lifestyle and issues such as neck pain problems can be a thing of the past.
Stay tuned, for my next couple of articles as I will explore the topic of prevention and the easiest and least time-consuming way (or ways) to do just that.
Thank you for reading!