Sitting is Creepy. How to Lower your Risk for Low Back Pain.

Sitting is something we all like to do each day. You get tired and you sit, you sit at a desk, you sit on the bus. We all love sitting.

Sitting can have a nefarious side to it though. Now I am not going to say “sitting is the new smoking”, but we are going discuss the negative bio mechanics of sitting. In particular we will look at the creep phenomenon.

Muscles, Elastic Movers.

Our muscles are quite similar to elastic rubber bands. They can change shape when placed under tension and can produce force as they move and stretch. Our muscles are always under some amount of tension but their position will effect the amount of tension a muscle can have.

This tension-position relationship is normally not a problem. Movement keeps our muscles from being held in one position, and this wasn’t a problem when we used to move throughout our day consistently. Modern work and leisure practices have made us more stationary in recent decades. When our muscles don’t move, we set ourselves up for a little bio-mechanical phenomenon called creep.  

The Creep Phenomenon:

Photo by  NeONBRAND  on  Unsplash

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Creep is the slow deformation of a solid material when placed under a load. If you want a visual representation of creep you can watch this video. In this article, I may be describing it in relation to muscles, but creep can happen to any solid material. Since our muscles are like rubber bands I am going to use a rubber band to describe creep.

Think of a rubber band with a weight attached to it. You hang a weight off the end of an elastic band and it stretches and holds a new position.  If the weight is removed right away the rubber band can return to its original shape no problem.

What happens if we leave the weight hanging for an extended period of time? The rubber band will not just snap back into place. Take the weight off and it stays in its new lengthened position. It can be said that the Rubber band has Creeped into a new set position.

Our muscles function in the same way as the rubber band. We move regularly and our muscles can change shape and move as we need.  Hold a position for too long and they can become permanently stretched to a new shape. This phenomenon can be seen in any muscle group that holds a position for a lengthened periods of time. But the muscles along the spine are common because of sitting for lengthened periods of time.         

Why does this matter?

Remember my previous article about our erector spinae muscles?

When we sit our erector spinae muscles become stretched as they try to pull us into an upright position. As we continue to sit for lengthened periods of time, our muscles start to stretch to new lengths and lose their elasticity. Over time they ‘creep’ into a new position and begin to lose their ability to contract with the same force and power they did before.

Over time our muscles become less capable to pull us into an upright position. Thus our posture starts to creep into the hunched over position. This doesn’t happen in one day. But over months/years we can see this phenomenon take place.

Over time, our weakened muscles will not be able to prevent our vertebrae from moving into a flexed position. This can potentially cause complications with our back such as a herniated disc.

How do we fix it?

No, it’s not a new sit stand workstation.

Movement!

Literally get up and move around during your day. Set a timer to move every 20 minutes and you will protect yourself from the creep phenomenon . This can be as simple as just standing up and then sitting down.

But there are a few other ways to build movement into your workday.

1. Drink more water. In turn you will use the bathroom more.

2. Every time you answer the phone stand up. You don’t have to stay standing for the whole call but standing for a moment will help.

3. Every time you finish a major task, take a 1 minute walk. It will help and increase your focus for the next task.

By the way, I have a seminar on posture correction in Guelph in the next couple weeks. You can register for a ticket in the button below.