Students need to move to avoid pains of sitting

October 12, 2010 by  

Proper posture is not something on the minds of most university students, but the way you’re sitting may be affecting you more than you think.

“Sitting is an issue in the population at large, and so what we’re seeing, progressively, is a decline in physical capability and a progressive increase in muscular tension,” said Dr. Michael Vipond, a chiropractor for 26 years.

“I think the biggest issue, especially if you’re a student in their 20s, is that you just don’t think about it being an issue because you’re bendable enough that you think it’s no big deal.”

When a person sits for an extended period of time, some muscle groups are both shortened and stretched, creating muscle imbalance and weakness. Over time, this can reduce mobility and cause lower back and neck pain

“The classic places you will see it when you’re sitting are in the hamstrings, the hip flexors, the deep hip flexors and the anterior muscles of the neck and the chest,” said Vipond. “When you slump [in a chair], you’re reversing the curve of your lumbar spine, so that puts abnormal stress on it.”

The perils of the laptop

Working on a laptop computer can also cause added stress to the neck and chest.

“If it’s a desktop, at least you have the opportunity to create decent ergonomics, but with a laptop, you’re either too high with your hands or too low and then you have to drop your head down to see it,” said Vipond.

Years of sitting in a poor position and slumping in your chair, can cause a type of injury classified as progressive micro-trauma, a chronic injury that builds up over time.

“It’s not something that you do in a couple of minutes or even an hour, but you do it over day after day after day. What magnifies the effects of the postural change is when you hit deadlines, exams, all the things where you’re adding additional muscular stress or tension or anxiety, and that just ramps up the muscle changes all over,” said Vipond.

According to Vipond, students should be moving around every half-hour or at least changing their position while they sit. Performing a range of motion exercises to help combat imbalances created by sitting can be a big help, too.

“Range of motion is usually the key thing, so for your neck, that’s forward and back, turning left and right and tilting left and right. Even in your chair, you can do those same motions through your trunk, bending forward and tilting and turning.”

Vipond also suggests rolling up a towel or sweater and placing it between the small of your back and the chair to maintain the natural curve of your spine.

“Just getting out and moving around is one of the key things, and if they [students] aren’t exercising, at the very least what they should be doing is some stretching exercises to try and counter act those changes,” said Vipond.


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