top of page
  • Writer's pictureMelissa MacDonald DC

Pain While Sitting? Let's Fix That.

Updated: Feb 10, 2020

We are all well aware that prolonged sitting can be detrimental to your health, but what can you do to stay healthy if you have a desk job?

Here is my 5-part strategy to prevent the adverse effects of prolonged desk sitting and a link to a podcast that take a deep dive into being healthy behind the desk.

Part 1: Education Training and Understanding Pain/Injuries

The first step of preventing pain and injury, or achieving optimal health, is first to understand how it occurs in the body. It is important to move in every aspect of your life, whether it be at work or at home. Which means throughout the day having movement alerts once an hour will help you remember. This mini break should only last 3-5 minutes and allow for you to feel more energized throughout the day. Having an accountability buddy at work can also be beneficial.

Some great options for when at work are:

  • Lacrosse Ball under your legs, top of legs, between shoulder blades while at the desk

  • Light dumbbells at your desk for fitness snacking throughout the day

  • Park at the farthest spot away to get more walking throughout the day

  • Walking meetings are a great way to get movement and productivity

  • Seated Exercise throughout the day three times per work day minimum

  • Seated Cat and Cows

  • Seated Twists

  • Neck Ranges of Motion

  • Shoulder Rolls

  • The Trifecta Desk Exercises

  • Desk Push-Up

  • Body Squats

  • 10 Shoulder Blade Contractions

  • Mini-water breaks throughout the day.

  • 10,000 steps per day.

  • Chair Yoga

During the hours you do have to sit, it is important you utilize good posture. Having a small mirror next to your desk can help you remember.

Part 2: Proper Ergonomics

The word ‘ergonomics’ comes from the Greek words ‘ergon’ which means work, and ‘nomos’ which means natural laws. Ergonomics can thus be defined simply as the natural laws of work. More specifically, ergonomics is the scientific study of designing the job and workplace to fit the worker, keeping in mind their capabilities and limitations. Ergonomics combines the knowledge of other scientific disciplines like anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, engineering, psychology, and statistics to ensure that workplace designs complement the strengths of people and minimize the effects of their limitations.

Ergonomics is also known as human factors, and the terms are often used interchangeably. Ergonomists and human factors specialists seek to understand how a workplace, product, tool, or system can be best designed to fit the people who need to use it. The goal is to apply this knowledge to improve the system, human performance, and productivity, while also focusing on the health, safety, and well-being of the individuals involved.

Part 3: Micro-Breaks

It is important to build micro breaks into the daily routine. As such, Stanford also provides the following ideas for making breaks a part of the workday: Move the printer to an area that requires you to stand up and walk to get a printout. Stand up when talking on the phone (the use of a stand-up desk is also helpful), Go to the restroom or get a cup of coffee/water (frequently; remember the glass of water every hour), Break up continuous computer time with tasks such as checking phone messages, reading reports, etc.

Our favorite intervention is the Micro-Break Card (see below). Make sure to implement these micro-breaks every 60 minutes.

Part 4: Body Positioning and Awareness

The key to injury prevention for the spine is to avoid improper positioning and movements that will cause undue stress. The Sternum Up, Power Zone and Abdominal Bracing will keep the spine in neutral, allow for proper bending at the hips and protect the spine. Here are easy ways you can implement this into your activities of daily living.

Sternum Up- Keeping the sternum up automatically sets the body into good posture and maintains:

Neutral Spine: Maintaining good spinal alignment decreases the stress placed on the spine and discs. b. Hip Hinging: Bending at the hips, and not the low back, decreases the stress placed on the low back and increases strength & power.

Vladimir Janda, a highly notarized Medical Physician, was the first physician to define posture into the different “crossed syndromes”. In 1979 he classified postural distortion into the three different syndromes; upper crossed lower crossed and layered syndromes. Based upon these syndromes, postural corrections were theorized to correct these musculoskeletal imbalances.

Power Zone- The zone that will optimize lifting strength and injury reduction.

Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle, and you are in the “Primary Power Zone.” b. The area up to the shoulders and down to the hips is acceptable. c. The more you can work in the “power zone” the less fatigue on your body

Abdominal Bracing- When all of your core muscles work together, a “Super Stiffness” occurs, and all 3 layers of the abdominal wall are activated to protect and stabilize the spine and discs.

Without bending forward, contract the abdominal muscles (like you are about the get punched in your gut – feel them tighten with one hand) and the buttock muscles (as if you are holding in a bowel movement). You will feel the lower back muscles contract (with the other hand) when you contract your abs and buttocks.

Part 5: Corrective Exercises

Corrective exercises are typically spine-sparing strategies that include movements and stretches to correct postural distortions and musculoskeletal imbalances. This would include concepts like taking micro-breaks very often at work to stretch for 20 seconds, look 20 yards away at an object to readjust the muscles in your eyes from staring at a computer screen. Other strategies for corrective exercise might include, an overhead arm reaches, Brugger’s postural relief, sitting to standing, spine mobilization exercises, and wall angels. These exercises can help open up the posture from sitting in a forward flexed position for hours at a time. Functional rehabilitation would include incorporating functional exercises that are intended to activate the core. This activation will help strengthen the body’s muscles to make the muscles stronger to endure hours of repetitive posture. Some of these exercises might include; side bridges, rows, planks, cat/camel exercises, bird dog and superman extension exercises just to name a few. Below is a small sampling of corrective exercises and functional rehabilitation that you can incorporate into your daily routine. Later in this book, we will be providing you with a self-functional assessment that will find some of your potential functional deficiencies with correlated corrective strategies.

Additional Resources


All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.

Content was curated through the Chiropractic Sucess Academy

35 views0 comments


bottom of page