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Sitting has always been the ‘new smoking'

“Sitting is the new smoking.”

woman sitting at deskThis headline has played across Canadian media for the past couple of years. Even six hours a day at a desk can boost your risk factors for obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, a buffet of cancers, and even emotional problems.

All that from just sitting six hours a day. Most people sit for nine. Even if you exercise, all that sitting can still catch up with you.

This latest health warning came out of recent research by Mayo Clinic endocrinologist Dr. James Levine. It raises a legitimate red flag for any of us who make a living sitting in front of a computer.

But sitting as a risk factor for health is nothing new. Aside from these other risk factors, sitting at a desk (or over a tablet or a smartphone) also has a more immediate impact on your health.

It all comes back to basic ergonomics.

Time after time, we have had patients come into our clinic complaining of neck pain, back pain, lost mobility, headaches, even asthma.

What do they have in common? More often than not, they all spend hours each day hunched over a keyboard or screen, and they have lost the normal alignment in their spine. We even see this in kids who spend hours a day on their tablets and phones.

Why is this important? Your spine is a stack of bones called vertebrae that are meant to fit together in a certain way. They’re like a stack of donuts, with holes through the middle. They have to line up just right so your spinal cord can run through those holes without getting affected, optimizing function of the nervous system.

But if your spine has lost its natural curve, loss of optimal function is exactly what happens.

The spinal cord is the information superhighway of your body. It is the vital conduit that relays information from your brain to every last organ and cell, finger, and toe. If the spinal cord is in distress because your spine is out of alignment, you may suffer symptoms like chronic headaches, neck and back pain, and perhaps even aggravation of other conditions such as asthma.

All because you sit too long at a desk without practicing proper ergonomics.

We have piles of patient x-rays that show a direct correlation between desk habits, these kinds of symptoms, and necks that have lost most if not all their natural curve.

Leaving this condition uncorrected leads to arthritic degeneration of the vertebrae, and degeneration of the discs between them – this kind of decay is not reversible. The prognosis is a grim one – a vicious cycle of possible symptoms and growing reliance on a cocktail of medication that each carries their own risk of unwanted side effects.

What you can do

But there is hope.

First, adjust your workstation. Here’s a great article that illustrates how best to sit at your desk and position your keyboard and chair.

Second, get up and move. Make a point of getting up for a few minutes at least once an hour. Do some simple stretching. Take the stairs instead of an elevator. Every little bit helps.

Third, get checked. See what shape your spine is in with a visit to the Chiropractor. This is what we do. Again, we can stop and correct early-stage problems with your spine. But there is always hope, even if your spine is not fully correctable, we may still be able to help you!

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