COVID-19 has given us the pleasure and convenience of working from home, but sometimes we might get a little too comfortable sitting too long when working. Long hours of sitting with a bad posture can actually be harmful to your health. Bad sitting posture can pose pain issues like neck swelling, lower back pain and body fatigue. If prolonged, sitting might even lead to health complications such as cervical spondylosis, gastrointestinal disease, cardiovascular disease, etc. all of which can be easily prevented!
How does it affect your body?
There is a TCM saying that sitting for too long will “harm yourself” (久坐伤肉) as it will result in the lack of ‘qi’ and blood.
When you’re stuck in a sitting position for a long time, the weight of the human body will be more concentrated on the lumbosacral (lower back) region of the spine. This imbalance of pressure distribution in the back can easily cause muscle strain and pain in the lower back. If untreated, this can even lead to loss of flexibility of the intervertebral disc tissue and hypostasis of the spine, also known as thickening of bone tissue.
Prolonged sitting can also slow down gastrointestinal movement, which involves the movement of ingested food throughout the body. It may reduce secretion of digestive juice, which leads to poorer digestion. You may also experience bloating, constipation or water retention more often.
Sitting for a long time tends to tighten the muscles of the shoulder, neck and waist, causing it to become stiff. This affects the blood supply of the vertebral artery to the head and causes dizziness. Therefore, it is difficult for people to maintain a long attention span.
The lack of exercise will also weaken one’s muscles, reducing its flexibility, leading to increased swelling of the lower limbs and fatigue. This will cause your muscles to stiffen up, which may cause you to experience pain and numbness and, in more serious cases – muscle atrophy (loss of muscle tissue).
Overcoming long hours of sitting
Sitting comfortably at home while working could be tempting, and it is important to move and stretch whenever you can. Take time to stand up and move around every hour for about 5 to 10 minutes – you can also do simple activities like rotating your arms or a short body stretch!
This will not only help you to be healthier, but also effectively relieve work pressure.
Avoid this harmful sitting posture
Sitting cross-legged can be dangerous. Whether it’s sitting with the knees overlapped or the swaying of an ankle over the other knee as you sit, this sitting posture is one that many people take for granted in their lives. Often adopted in an attempt to portray oneself as elegant or handsome while sitting, this bad sitting posture will cause your pelvis to skew over time and lead to the following diseases:
1. Spider Veins (aka Varicose veins or thromboembolism) in the legs
If you notice blue veins appearing on your legs, you have to be mindful of how you are sitting.
Keeping the legs crossed while sitting down for a long time will not only cause numbness, but the nerves and blood vessels on the bottom of the top leg are flattened by the other leg too. Over time, blood flow will be congested, and the blood vessels will dilate. This congestion increases the risk of spider veins (varicose veins) in the calf, lower body edema or thromboembolism, causing bruises on the calf, especially for elderly people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. In the long-term, this sitting posture will only worsen these conditions.
2. Impotency, infertility, and urinary malfunctions
When you sway your feet while sitting, your legs are often clamped too tightly, which increases the temperature of the inner thighs and around the genitals. For men who are sitting cross-legged, the temperature around the crotch tends to get excessively high, and it is less likely to dissipate heat, which affects the vitality and quality of the sperm. If sitting cross-legged becomes a long term habit, it may affect fertility.
It’s better not to cross your legs too firmly for more than 10 minutes if you really want to elevate your feet while sitting. If you notice sweat developing on your inner thighs, get up and walk for a few minutes in a well-ventilated area to swiftly dissipate the heat. If you’re sitting cross-legged on a bus and the bus comes to a sudden stop, the sudden jerk will cause harm to your bones, joints, and muscles.
Furthermore, the urethra and anus are controlled by the pelvic floor muscles. Sitting cross-legged compresses the pelvic floor muscles, causing them to become stiff, causing them to become strained and weary. The bladder and bowel functions will be affected, resulting in incontinence or urination issues.
3. Spine deformation, bone disease or muscle strain
Sitting cross-legged will cause either side’s hip joints to be higher than the other, causing the pelvic bones to be out of balance, and the body’s center of gravity to be tilted towards the lower foot, causing the pelvis and spine to be out of alignment. The upper lumbar and thoracic vertebrae will bend and rotate, changing the shape of the spine from a normal “S” to a “C” shape, resulting in inconsistencies in muscle lengths on the left and right sides, as well as a misalignment between the spine and the pelvis. As a result, joint mobility will be affected.
Sitting cross-legged for long periods of time compresses the spinal nerves, resulting in discomfort, numbness, pain, and weakness in the lower back. The lumbar spine (lower) will tilt to the right in an attempt to maintain balance, while the thoracic spine (middle) will bend to the left and the cervical spine (upper) will bend to the right. Scoliosis, intervertebral disc herniation, and sciatica will develop over time. The shoulders will be out of balance, resulting in neck pain, plantar fasciitis, and maybe imbalanced foot length and other problems.
4. Degenerative arthritis
When one foot supports the weight of the other for an extended period of time while sitting incorrectly, the abnormal amount of external force exerted on the knee joint causes degeneration and wear of the compressed supra-knee cavity, increasing the risk of degenerative arthritis.
Fix your posture before it’s too late.
If you’re having trouble breaking the habit of sitting incorrectly, simply remind yourself that if you notice your feet are elevated, switch your sitting posture from one side to the other. It’s not a good idea to stay on one side for more than 10 minutes. Changing your sitting position regularly will also help. Don’t cross your legs too tightly when sitting cross-legged. This will reduce the likelihood of pelvic tilts, feet length imbalance, lower back muscle pain, and spine damage that everyone suffers from. If the natural curvature of the lumbar spine is maintained, the risk of low back discomfort and intervertebral disc herniation is also reduced.
If you notice that you are experiencing the above symptoms, you may want to book an appointment with us today.
(Co-authored by Physician Guo Yuan)