Picture this: sitting still and staring at a large screen for hours on end, interrupted only by a routine switch to another smaller screen. This is the way that employees everywhere are spending the bulk of their days. In this age of constant connectedness and the digitalization of every aspect of life, staring at laptops and phones is required by a majority of jobs, a number which only boomed during the pandemic. The transition to working from home for so many employees only enhanced the tether between the devices and their user, and when the tether keeps employees sitting for hours, uninterrupted, it starts to be a pain in the neck. Literally.
Poor posture, seen in the examples of employees slumping in their chairs, will lead to chronic back, shoulder, and neck pain, not to mention poor circulation.
These consequences are more dangerous than you may think, especially since the injuries come from a place of inactivity, not trauma. But you should be taking the effects of prolonged sitting as seriously as you do a fractured bone from a fall, or a concussion from a sports accident. Poor circulation can lead to the formation of a blood clot in a vein, causing deep vein thrombosis.
“If you sit for an extended period of time, you’ll most likely develop terrible posture. Sitting for too long can also increase your risk of chronic health problems such as some cancers, diabetes and heart disease. Sitting is more dangerous than smoking, and sitting for too long is probably killing you slowly.”
– Dr. Gbolahan Okubadejo, a spinal and orthopedic surgeon at the New York-area Institute for Comprehensive Spine Care
Weight gain and loss of muscle strength are two other potential effects of prolonged sitting, with the muscles in the legs and thighs suffering especially.
But hope is not all lost. The pain you feel from sitting for extended periods of time is reversible, and we are here to show you how.
How do you get rid of sitting pains?
Here are some simple suggestions that when followed, will ease tension in your neck, shoulders, and back from a long day of sitting. They are a holistic approach to improved health overall, which will reduce sitting pains in turn.
- Stand up to walk around whenever you can. Talking on the phone is a perfect opportunity.
- Every 30 minutes, leave your desk for at least 5 minutes to walk or move. Activity is key.
- Choose to take the stairs instead of an elevator for improved heart and muscle health.
- Park a small distance away from your destination for a built in exercise walk. The back of the parking lot is a great start.
- Switch to the proven method for eliminating sitting pains, an adjustable standing desk. Here is the best one.
Want to Target a Specific Area? How can I relieve pain in my neck?
If it's a specific area in which you experience recurring sitting pains, you can target the spot by doing specialized exercises. Read along to find the specific spot you want to reduce your pain, and find the corresponding advice.
The shoulders will often feel stiff after you spend hours sitting at a computer, so simply stand and do a shoulder stretch to alleviate some of the stiffness, which will help reduce the tension. You start by standing up, crossing your left arm across your chest, and holding it in your right hand for 15 seconds. Repeating it but with the opposite side will make sure you have stretched both sides adequately. Doing this exercise frequently will make sure your shoulders are more comfortable while working.
Wrists can be subjected to a lot of pain from hours of sitting and typing. Carpal tunnel syndrome is one common risk that frequent sitters face, so it is important to attend to your wrists if you feel they start to hurt. Start by placing your right hand in front of you with your hand open and palm facing forward. Then, bend down your wrist, so that your fingers point towards the ground. You can take your left hand, and use it to pull your right-hand fingers toward your chest, stretching them and your wrist. Maintaining this for 15 seconds, and then repeating with the opposite hands will ensure reduced pain in your wrist going forward.
Exercises will greatly improve the comfort of your neck, and eliminate the pain you can feel from sitting for long periods of time. We recommend neck rolls, which are easy to do and very effective. Simply start with your head tilted to one side, and slowly roll it until it has reached the other, and then repeat going the other direction. It will greatly lessen the tension in your neck.
Sometimes your lower back can feel tight from sitting for so long, but exercise can help. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you, back straight, and shoulders back. Then, cross your right leg over the left one, bending your right knee upward. On the outside of your right leg, place your left hand, twist your whole upper body to face the right, and hold for 15 seconds. Repeating on the left side will make sure that your entire lower back has been stretched out, and will leave it feeling more relaxed.
The best exercise to target full body stretching is the child’s pose, since it will help to relieve pressure on the back, the thighs, the shoulders, and the hips. The child’s pose consists of kneeling on the floor, and leaning all the way forward, outstretching your arms so that your abdomen is laying across the top of your thighs.
With these suggestions, you can begin on your path towards a healthier, and less painful life. You shouldn’t have to choose between your job and your health, so don’t. Be mindful about how your body is reacting to the way you spend your work days, and excel in both.