By: Kerrie Murphy | 23/11/2023
You’ve probably heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”. And whilst the comparison is potentially a bit dramatic, there are certainly negative effects to the sharply increased use of technology.
Our bodies are not physically evolved to accommodate the long durations of time spent in fixed positions, and without proper maintenance we are placed at a significant risk of injury.
Sitting for long periods causes your fascia (connective tissue) to become fixed in these positions, causing a lack of circulation and blood flow. The result is brittleness in the tissue, which can be described as dehydration.
Our bodies are 50-70% water, which acts as a lubricant, participating in metabolic reactions in all our cells. Everything we do relies on us having good hydration in our cells and our tissues, especially our cognitive functions. Connective tissue needs compression and stretching and breathing and expansion in order to stay hydrated. Research also suggests that dehydrated fascia can hold trauma.
In order to mitigate the effects of dehydration, orthopaedic surgeon Jennifer J. Beck MD suggests taking breaks to engage in stretches, and changing your position every 30 minutes or so. A foam roller can be a great piece of equipment to have at home to assist with stretching. Some of our favourites are lying with the roller under the length of the spine for snow angel arms and placing the roller under both shoulder blades and extending and flexing over it.
Typically use of technology causes us to be in hunched over positions, which can result in neck and back pain as chest muscles are shorted and posterior neck muscles are overstretched.
This also causes the diaphragm to become compressed, which Dr Beck links to a bad-posture cycle. “You can’t sit up straight because your diaphragm is so tight, so that tightness in the front is actually pulling you forward. Also your digestive tract is crippled in this position, which can potentially lead to constipation.” A great way to avoid compression is to build some expansive breathing exercises into your day. We imagine the breath growing the ribs wide like an accordion; wrapping the thumbs and fingers around the rib cage with a nice tight grip, try use a wide inhale to force the hands to move. You can also try to release neck tension with nose circles with the head resting on a soft chi ball, or massaging the neck with a tennis ball or trigger ball.
Another important recommendation is to try holding your phone in front of your face rather than down at your torso to avoid hunching. Solid ergonomics are really important to support spinal health so make sure your work setup is thorough. You could also try daily mini inversions—like lifting your hips onto a foam roller for a spine twist, or lying down with your legs flush up again the wall. Inversion exercises help to traction the spine and release tension build up throughout the day.
Excessive texting and typing can also cause problems with the fascia in the hand, which have pathways into the shoulder and the neck. Overuse of this position can cause carpal tunnel symptoms, tendonitis in the wrist and nerve damage that can result in potentially permanent hand weakness from the compression of wrist nerves from sustained flexion. It is important to mobilise and strengthen the wrist throughout the day, perhaps by massaging the underside of the hand with a trigger ball or golf ball and practising wrist isolations with small hand weights.
One of the many wonders of the Pilates method is the ability to work in all ranges of motion and both isolate and integrate all muscle groups to hydrate fascia. Join us in the studio at Infinity Pilates to help unwind the seated posture with a program specially designed for your needs.