Anchorage chiropractor explains the pain behind sitting so much during the pandemic

Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 6:25 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s not everybody, but more people are working from home than ever before during the pandemic. According to Dr. Michael Michaud at True Life Chiropractic, the routine of rolling out of bed and into a chair to look down at a screen all day is doing a number on people’s backs and necks.

Michaud said he’s seeing new patients with new pains in their back and necks that they’ve never had before. Once he asks them what they think is going on, he said they usually come to the conclusion themselves that they’re sitting a lot with poor posture.

“Structure dictates function,” Michaud said, “but posture over time can dictate structure, which will dictate function.”

He explained that when you sit, your spine curves in a way that puts pressure on the cartilage in your spine. Not to say that sitting is bad for you, however when you sit for longer periods of time than humans were designed for, Michaud said it can wear that cartilage out and cause problems.

Likewise, looking down at a screen by slouching your neck forward causes issues that are becoming increasingly more common - many know the pain in the middle of the neck as ‘tech neck.’

“For every inch that your neck goes forward it’s like 20 pounds more pressure on the junction of the middle part of your neck and upper back,” Michaud said.

He said the poor posture that comes with sitting for hours on end is the root of much of the pain people are feeling these days. He said the best possible solution; a standing desk.

Michaud made the joke that we’re humans, “so we’re homo erectus, not homo-sit-us.”

When you stand with your back straight and neck positioned with your earholes directly over the shoulder, Michaud said that’s the way the spine was meant to curve. Therefore, your body doesn’t make the internal adjustments it makes when you sit too long too often and the muscles adjust for the behavior which is part of what causes pain.

For those who take a five-minute stretch break every hour or two, Michaud’s medical advice is to flip that around. Stand as much as possible, and take a break from that by sitting.

Michaud said if you’re working at home, investing in a standing desk is the way to go. However, he understands that times are tough and new office furniture may not be in everyone’s budget right now.

To compromise, he suggests doing your best to split standing and sitting time as much as possible. 50/50 would be ideal he said. For those taking phone calls and Zoom meetings all day, he suggests downloading the app on your phone and taking some of those calls on a walk if possible. There’s also some things that help but aren’t comparable to standing according to Michaud.

For example, he said ergonomic office chairs can be better for your back if you get a good one. However, he said that while that makes the sitting position more comfortable, humans still aren’t meant to be sitting that long.

He laughs at the trend of sitting on exercise balls as opposed to a chair when it comes to taking care of your back and posture.

“Well that’s great,” he said, “but now you’re just going to slouch on a ball.”

It’s not just adults who are suffering more pains because of the pandemic. A father himself, Michaud said he has concerns with the number of kids doing class online during the pandemic. Without proper posture and enough time spent being active, he said children could grow to develop back pains.

For those with children at home, he said you’ve got to get them up and moving as well. He suggests being “dad cool” and making some time to get into an active hobby with the kids that they suggest. For example, he and his son are currently in the process of raising bees.

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