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  • Writer's pictureOuch!

Do I sit at a desk...Do I stand at a desk?

Updated: Mar 6, 2021

I just bought a stand up desk and an exercise ball to use as a chair. Why isn’t my pain getting better? I thought sitting too long was the problem? It’s so frustrating, and so expensive.

It’s not the activity that is the problem, it’s the body going to it. For so many of us, we are trapped in a daily grind of doing the same thing again and again. If we have job that requires us to sit at a desk, we sit for too long. If we have a job as a food server, we’re on our feet too much. If we are a delivery driver, then we sit too long and lift the wrong way. We can’t ever win.

Our bodies are designed to handle so much more that sitting at a desk, or delivering a tray full of food. Our bodies are actually designed to handle a capacity that most of us never reach. We are designed to run marathons, and carry two or three times our body weight with no problem. We are designed to handle activities like swimming, jumping, throwing, running, crawling, climbing, kicking, dancing, gymnastics, space flight, and even carrying a glass of wine while we do most of it. So, why can’t I sit at my desk for extended periods of time without hurting?

The answer lies in what we do in-between activities. As wonderful as our design is, we are also a learning machine. And we need stimulus to learn. Our bodies become conditioned to activities. When we are faced with an activity for the first time, we immediately adapt to the activity and begin a process of mechanical efficiency, or learning, to do the same activity even better the next time. It’s pretty cool. A healthy functioning body can get better and better at an activity until it is able to master it. In sports, some of those people become olympians. In music, they become great musicians…etc. Practice makes perfect. Our bodies can learn. In a functional person, the body starts from a place of balance, moves to an activity or a new movement, and then returns to a place of balance. If that happens, as it is supposed to, then we feel no pain. If the activity is sitting, then a balanced body has no pain. If the activity is running, then a balanced body has no pain. The key is having a balanced body.

Now, if the activity were so demanding that it stressed our bodies to the breaking point, then it will create an injury. But sitting at a desk is not a strenuous activity. What’s happening is the body has fallen out of balance and won’t return to balance. It begins to learn how to sit efficiently, because we do it everyday. Sitting isn’t strenuous, but when a body is out of balance, it can not handle the transitions from the act of sitting, toward one of moving. The body is the problem here, not sitting. The body is out of balance, pain comes…Ouch!

The longer you continue to do an activity, the more conditioned you become to continue that activity. People who sit too long, for example, start to look like people who…sit too long. Their backs and shoulders become rounded. Their hips become tucked under, and their heads are shooting forward. If they don’t also do other things that encourage the proper balance of their bodies, then it’s only a matter of time until the pain sets in. If you’re out of balance, and you begin running or jogging because you want to lose a little weight, then you can expect that running will feel like the worst thing in the world. Your knees will hurt. Your feet will hurt. There will be no marathon in your future, and no slim waistline. Basically, running will feel like an activity that you weren’t meant to do, and you probably look for another activity that “doesn’t hurt as much” like riding a bike or getting in a pool. Getting your body into balance is the key to being able to handle any and every type of activity, at any and every age.

So if you bought that ball, or have a “stand up desk” to prevent your back pain, it’s important to know that all you have done is change the new activity for your body to adapt too. Those activities will become just as uncomfortable as sitting if you don’t address your body’s imbalances. Before you invest in a an expensive solution to a very common problem, maybe you should try something that will actually address the problem. Give your body some stimulus that promotes its ability to return to balance - every day - and you’ll be able to handle sitting, standing, driving, waiting tables…or whatever, for as long as you want.

30 mins a day doing corrective exercises oughta do the trick!

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