“Don’t get bent out of shape” is one of my least favorite phrases. First of all, don’t tell me what to do. Second of all, four years in a back brace couldn’t fix my scoliosis – so let’s face it, my “bend” is pretty much here to stay.
My pre-teen years were spent wearing a Milwaukee brace twenty-three hours a day. Thankfully, Judy Blume‘s “Deannie”, saw me through some of my darkest junior high moments. Thanks Judy! Sure, back braces may have been all the rage in ortho-fashion – but that didn’t keep me from trying to sneak out of the house without wearing it on occasion. Still, all in all, the contraption resembling a medieval torture device was worth it. My body balanced things out, and today only my massage therapist notices my twistiness. Oh, and me. I notice it too.
The occasional back pain experienced by my scoliosis-y friends is perfectly understandable – but what about the world’s not so physically twisted people? Well, that’s another story. I’d suggest you ‘pull up a chair’ while I explain, but after you read this, you’ll understand why that’s not such a good idea.
Back pain. Two words that hold such misery, mystery and endless stories of woe. Back pain is the most common reason for missed-work, second most common purpose for a visit to the doctor’s office and the leading cause of disability in the world! I repeat, the world!
There are a lot of reasons for this back based epidemic, but one of the most common causes is living in a society of sitters. Case in point: Our butts. At work we park our butt in front of a computer. At home we park it in front of the TV, and again in front of the computer. And in-between? We park it in a car, bus or train. Even the muscle-heads who kick butt at the gym for an hour a day still have 23 other hours when they are probably….sitting on their butts. Butt wait, there’s more….
Numerous health professionals warn that sitting is the new smoking. Meaning, it is silently and seriously damaging our health. Too much sitting causes more than just chronic back pain. Studies have also linked excessive sitting to poor cardiovascular function, diabetes, colon cancer, deep vein-thrombosis, osteoporosis, depression and dementia. How come? Inactivity results in sluggish blood flow, which in turn slows everything down, so tissues aren’t properly oxygenated and they can’t behave optimally – thus you are a sitting target (literally) for a whole slew of health problems. If THAT doesn’t make you stand up, I don’t know what will.
“Truth About Exercise” is a smart thirty-minute BBC Horizons documentary that brings attention to the dangers of sitting, with plenty more revelations throughout. The information is brilliant, and just listening to English accents may make you feel smarter.
The good news is: You don’t have to bend over backwards to take steps to prevent back pain and the evil effects of too much sitting.
1) Move more. Get up! Better yet, get up and walk over to speak to someone instead of yelling across the room or…..texting. You know you do it! Walk where you need to go when you can. And take the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator. These should be spurts of activity weaved into your day, in addition to regularly scheduled daily cardiovascular activity.
2) Eat right and keep a healthy body weight. You can fool yourself, but there is no fooling your body. It knows when you are carrying around extra weight and when you are feeding it crap. You get what you give baby!
3) Sleep on a firm-ish mattress. What I call a goldilocks mattress – not too firm, not too soft, but just right. Your spine will thank you.
4) Sensible shoes. Sorry Carrie, save the Manolo Blahniks for date-night. If you are a New Yorker, you know what I am talking about. They don’t need to be ugly orthotic clogs, just comfortable shoes you will want to walk in. And remember, arch support is your friend.
5) Posture! It looks good and feels good because it is good. Plus, it is easier to maintain good posture when you are standing or walking – so get up off your bootie! If you must sit for work, try to walk around at least once every hour. Might I suggest a walk to the water-cooler to discuss that amazing blog you just read called Sydology?
New York Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Paul Brisson, suggests some tips and a few accessories to assist his patients in embracing proper sitting office ergonomics. Items such as a lumbar support, headset, document holder, wrist support and footstool make a huge difference in body mechanics while sitting, and can be purchased at almost any office supply store. FYI, they may also be tax deductible.
Even mainstream office supply stores now offer easy-to-adjust work desks that can be used for both sitting and standing. Some offices are actually trading in all their chairs for higher desktop workspaces and a healthier standing work environment.
Gosh, if sitting is bad for normal bodies – imagine what it does to pre-twisted scoliosis-y people. Sitting is not something I could ever do for very long anyway – I guess that’s my spine telling me something. Besides, office chairs are only good for two things: chair racing and wheelies.
So if sitting is the new smoking, and standing is the new sitting – then what’s the new standing?…..and the name of the guy playing third? Confused? Me too, but there is no point in getting bent out of shape….I already am.