“What you don’t use, you lose.”

Algebra and  Spanish are all skills that I have lost because I have not exercised them (not that I was ever fluent in Spanish- but close enough to survive on beers and bathroom locations if ever stuck in Mexico).  There are many legitimate reasons why I lost these skills.  First, there have been very few times in my life that I have ever needed to solve for “x”- sorry for the blasphemy Mrs Gougen and second, I just don’t get enough exposure to practice on my Spanish.  Because I have not exercised these faculties in my brain, I have forgotten some of them.  The muscles of the body work the same way.  “What you don’t use, you lose.”

In our culture, sitting in chairs is a way of life.  From the family dinner table to the private bathroom commode, we have adapted ourselves to sit.  By the way, it wasn’t always this way.  Hunter gatherer cultures used more squatting  and erect sitting postures on hard ground and in ancient Roman they utilized benches for laying down while eating.  And did you know, that sitting may create as much as 30% more pressure on our spine while at the same time cause us to use our muscles less.  So there is more pressure on your spine when you are sitting in the traditional 90-degree position, but you may have less active muscle support.  The support comes from the back on the chair instead of our own strength.  This has resulted in an epidemic loss of low back muscle strength- leading to fatigue, pain and degeneration.

The small muscles of the back respond to pressure and balance.  They become engaged when we try to sit upright without the assistance of external support (i.e. chair back).  These muscles can support up to 40% of the weight of the spine- but only if we exercise them.  And you guessed it… our addiction to sitting has given us little reason to use the muscles of the low back.  We have quite honestly lost this strength (or never developed) because we simply didn’t use the muscles.  We let our chairs do the work for us.  This is the recipe for low back problems.   Just as my lack of exposure to cultural diversity has resulted in some pretty rusty language skills, our lack of exposure to active sitting has created some very rusty spines.  Add stress to the mix, and we may find ourselves in a spinal crisis.

Some other effects of sitting:

  • Tight hip-flexor muscles
  • Tight hamstring muscles
  • Increased knee pressure on patella tendon
  • Interstitial fluid stagnation
  • Decreased sense of balance

Some ideas to promote more active sitting:

  • Practice squatting more
  • Use stools instead of chairs
  • Sit native-american style on the floor
  • Use a physioball at the computer
  • Sit forward on your chair
  • Try and keep your knees pointed to the ground when sitting in a chair
  • Balance head-weights while using the computer (check with corrective care chiropractor first for fitting).
  • Practice Yoga and Pilates

As for my Spanish, “voy a seguir practican” (I Googled that one).

good luck and as always, be nice to yourself

Dr. Jerry