Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Is Sitting the New Smoking?

As chiropractors in the Downtown/Financial District of San Francisco, we see the effects of sitting every day. Conditions include chronic headaches, low back pain, muscle spasms, stiff neck, hip pain, knee pain, degenerative disc disease in people as early as their 20's among other things. Many patients ask us why they have these pains and degenerative changes, since they are so young and otherwise healthy. Although they may not have the symptoms, most have on thing in common: 90% are sitting 6-12 hours a day.

Recently, Anup Kanodia, a physician and researcher at Ohio State University, Wexner Medical Center said, "Sitting is the new smoking".  According to an Australian study published in October 2012 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, every hour of sitting, cuts about 22 minutes of the person's life, while it is estimated that smokers shorten their lives by about 11 minutes per cigarette.

No one wants to grow old with low back pain.  As chiropractors our goal is help you get out of pain, but more importantly to stay without pain, with better function, so that you can age as healthy as you possibly can be.  I have a 32 year old patient, who I love quoting: " I am here because I want to be the healthiest senior citizen I can possibly be."

Here is a look at how sitting affects us, as we sit for extended periods of time the posterior muscles in the low back, middle back, neck and pelvis become elongated, weak, inhibited, and underused. The hip and neck flexors on the other hand become short and taut. We mostly feel the muscle's response to sitting in the form of muscle spasms or tension, but the problem is far beyond the muscle. Prolonged slumped postures cause micro sprains and strains to the joints of the back and neck over prolonged periods of time. This leads to lose of neutral curvatures in the lumbar spine and the cervical spine, deformation of  ligaments that are elongated in the back and shortened in the front, disc compression, disc thinning, disc bulges, pain radiating to the arms or legs, or disc tears. The body overreacts to this damage and starts producing increased muscle tone, which feels like spasm, tension, knots in the muscles.  Naturally because it feels like spasm we start stretching the muscles instead of what we need to do, strengthen them.

So next time, you experience a spasm in the lower back, stiffness in the neck, sensitivity to certain movements or unexpected movements especially in the morning,  pain after sitting and standing,  or pain from sitting, standing, lifting or carrying, take into consideration that it may not just be a muscle spasm, and most likely a weakened disc that is likely to suffer further if not treated as such.  

Our chiropractors specialize in posture evaluation, muscle testing to identify front to back and left to right muscle imbalances.We are experts in differential diagnosis meaning we do all the orthopedic tests to help us differentiate a simple muscle spasm from, joint sprain/ strain and dysfunction , from disc protrusion or bulge.  We combine chiropractic, massage, physical therapy on the same visit to address all the structures involved: muscles, joints, nerves and discs.  For more information about this article and to contact Dr. Mazgaloff go to

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