67 – Living to Sit with Alexa Yuel (Dutchak), Kinesiologist & Massage Therapist
written by Alexa Dutchak (Registered Massage Therapist & Kinesiologist ) on 10/12/20
If you could add up the minutes of your day, how much time do you spend sitting, and how much time do you spend walking, stretching and moving?
My guess is that most of us would have a large discrepancy between the two! Each occupation or lifestyle comes with it’s own set of problems that it can impose on our bodies…the stay at home mom who is constantly on the go and carrying/holding her baby in the same position, the person working at a check out standing in the same spot for a long time, the mail carrier who is on their feet walking and carrying heavy bags all day…but from what I see, by far the worst for our bodies is the job that requires endless amounts of sitting.
Have you heard of sitting disease?
With chronic sitting comes chronic issues like headaches, jaw, neck and back pain, cold feet and hands from poor circulation, carpal tunnel syndrome, aching legs, digestive problems (mostly constipation), piriformis syndrome, vertebral disc compression and joint stiffness just to name a few. So why do all these problems come from this one thing that we do!? I hear this a lot…”I don’t know why I am in pain, I haven’t even really done anything lately”. Well, that is exactly the problem! Sitting more often than moving is associated with more problems with physical and mental/emotional health.
There are 3 major areas that as a massage therapist, I see can cause problems for clients who are sitting a lot.
- Tight Psoas (hip flexor). The Psoas (so-as), muscle is in the front of our abdomen area. The Psoas connects our upper body to our lower body, performs hip flexion, trunk side bending and supports our spine for posture. A tight psoas can indirectly be related to low back pain, hip pain and because of the psoas’ close location to our digestive system and because of the fascial connection, it can be related to digestive problems like bloating and constipation.
- Neck and upper back pain and headaches. I am putting these three together because of the muscles that connect our neck to our upper ribs ie: upper back. Sitting often causes our neck to become stuck in a forward head posture. This puts strain on both the anterior and posterior muscles of our neck and upper back. The anterior muscles of the neck become locked long, posterior muscles of neck locked shortened, while the muscles of our upper back become locked long. This creates this constant tug of war on our neck, and heaviness on our spine, then comes headaches, compression on our vertebral discs leading to nerve compression, circulation problems…it’s all connected!
- Piriformis Syndrome. Piriformis syndrome is the piriformis muscle (in the glute area), chronically compressing the sciatic nerve, which can cause posterior hip pain, pain in the glutes and numbness/tingling/shooting pain down the posterior leg. This is not to be confused with Sciatica. True sciatica is caused by a vertebral disc problem compressing on the sciatic nerve and can only be diagnosed by a doctor by X-Ray. We are compressing our piriformis and sciatic nerve the entire time we sit.
We. Need. To. Move.
When is the last time you reached your arms up over your head and flexed from side to side? When is the last time you outstretched your arms out beside you and leaned back over your chair? When is the last time you did a little back bend and even hung down to try to touch your toes?
If you can’t remember when, or it has been a while, it’s time to try to incorporate full body movements back into your daily life! Coming for a massage that could also include some cupping therapy can help increase blood and lymph circulation, decrease muscle adhesions and release tight fascia patterns…and it is also super relaxing!
But performing stretches and movements each day that are the opposite to what we do all day is so important. This is why I encourage yoga movement more than just static and isolated stretches. Yoga poses are full body multi line stretches and movements. This means that they are multi joint and multi muscle. This is much more beneficial than just standing and doing a quad stretch. If you aren’t into yoga, that’s okay! Let’s call it fascia mobility stretches.
Quick refresher about Fascia from my other blog posts):
Fascia is a connective tissue that we all have, and it’s EVERYWHERE. Fascia is the connective tissue glue that connects all our systems and structures in our bodies. It runs over, around and through every single muscle fiber (fascicles). The quality of that fascia glue can help support mobility and give us unrestricted, easy movement. But if it’s of poor quality, it can get stuck in limited, uncomfortable and painful patterns. A tight fascia “spot” can affect more than the spot that is causing you pain. For example, if you pull your t-shirt tight into a ball in the front of your body, the back of your t-shirt becomes tight as well. The problem in the front, affects the back too.
If you need more direction about these movements to help relieve pain and discomfort, head to my Instagram for a quick video on some non-yoga fascia line stretching! Along with an amazing massage, I help clients brainstorm and find ways to incorporate more movement into their lives. I also give some quick and easy stretching and self message therapy options to do at home. I have referral recommendations to other types of body therapists who can help give clients more detail and support!