OK, so it might be dramatic to say that sitting is dangerous. However, sitting for extended periods during the day (desk jobs, driving, nursing moms…) will wreak havoc on your body.
I have to admit that because my business is balancing the body and making sure muscles are of functional length and strength, I am obsessive with my own tweaks and overall function. So my latest ‘hitch in my giddy up’ (an annoying twinge in my right hip) sparked my need to get on my soap box and preach about the DANGER of sitting.
I have learned amazing things about the human body by going through 3 pregnancies and delivering them differently each time. I have also gathered a huge amount of body knowledge by 14 years of working with clients of all ages and sizes helping them achieve a pain-free lifestyle. Turning the spotlight on my right hip I realized that my pain was due to my shortened psoas muscle (see photo below). This is all too common. Anyone who has a desk job, drives extended periods, or in my case sits for 8 hours/day nursing a newborn, must work to counteract the effects of being in the seated position.
The reason this muscle causes so much pain is because of what it attaches to. Notice how it attaches to 5 vertebrae of lumbar spine then descends all the way through the hip joint onto the femur. A shortened psoas muscle may cause low back pain, hip pain, or even create a chain reaction all the way to the neck joining in on a migraine headache.
To give you an example, try to imagine tying your hand to your shoulder (closing the elbow joint) for 8 hours each day. Then imagine what it would feel like each time the arm was released to extend straight. Tightness, sore, maybe swollen…this is in a way what happens to your psoas muscle when you sit for extended periods each day. I don’t care if you are a devout yogi or fitness guru (haha), it is difficult to fight against what your body does for 8 hours a day with a 1-2 hour a day fitness regime. Difficult but not impossible, as long as you know the right tools to fix it.
Pilates and yoga are great ways to help lengthen the psoas muscle while giving the rest of your body benefits as well. The key is to think of something that puts your body in a position opposite of sitting. Laying backwards over a fit ball or simply laying on your stomach to watch TV or read a book are all helpful. At the very least, set a timer at your desk to get up and stretch every 45 minutes. If you are on a long road trip, make sure to walk around a bit and stretch at every pit stop.
For some who have had years of chronic pain an effective solution may be the slightly invasive neuromuscular massage. In my opinion, I do NOT recommend surgery. Throwing scar tissue into the mix may complicate the situation further.
I hope this is helpful to you! Please feel free to comment with solutions that work for you or requests for further explanation.