Are you a weekend warrior who works as hard as you play, or do you simply enjoy getting outside for a walk after a long week at work? If you are stuck behind the desk or in the car for prolonged periods, you have probably felt back stiffness and difficulty when first standing up. You are not alone as many desk jockeys feel these symptoms.
First, I will tell you why you experience this stiffness, and then we will address it with simple exercises that can be performed while at your desk and during your work day.
Why is it that you feel really stiff when first standing after a prolonged period of being hunched over your desk or computer? In short, it is the dreaded HIP FLEXORS! In the image below the Psoas Major and Iliacus are the primary hip flexors. Hip flexion is the motion of bringing your knee closer to your trunk. This muscle becomes shortened when in a sitting position. If you are stuck seated for a prolonged period, the hip flexor becomes shortened, and it is difficult to stand tall when first getting up. Tension of the hip flexors is coupled with tension in the small of the back.
When the hip flexor on the front side of the hip becomes shortened, that means the opposite is likely true on the backside, causing the hamstrings to become weak and long. Coupled with long and weak hamstrings are long and weak lower abdominals.
Both short and tense or long and weak are not ideal, as muscles function best at mid range. Mid range also creates balance that is necessary around the spine.
Now that you have a better understanding of the effects of prolonged sitting and the havoc it can cause to the lower back, let's get to how to reduce back stiffness with exercise that can be performed at your desk.
See the video below for a quick routine that can be done at your desk to help reduce lower back stiffness. Both static stretches and re-education exercises are included to first improve mobility and then lock in these gains.
Ideally we should all change position every 30 minutes by getting up to stand or walk at least a short distance, but at many jobs this is very difficult. Many people do not have the flexibility or time. Standing desks can be great option to help accomplish this, keeping employees healthy.
Please complete this routine every day you are stuck at your desk for an hour or more. Initially focus on the portion of the routine that you feel the most. Comment or share with a friend who may be in need of the same knowledge to reduce back stiffness. Knowledge can be very powerful, and empower us all to live a happier, and more mobile lifestyle.
Pioneer PT's goal is to help those with a busy lifestyle to get the treatment they deserve to live without pain pills or unnecessary surgeries so they can continue to be strong, mobile, and on-the-go. Visit www.pioneerptmd.com for more details.
James Dulkerian, DPT
Active outdoorsman with an honest soul and a passion for health.