A Running Injury Caused by….Sitting?
A few weeks after I started my very first office job in a windowless cubicle fresh out of college I began developing intense pain in my right hip. I eventually switched to a stability ball chair and the pain subsided and became bearable enough to continue on for the next two years.
I left that job after moving away from Boston and soon returned to an office in our new home of Washington D.C., and the confines of a desk for 9 hours a day. I began training for a half marathon and my training runs became my way of counteracting having to be in an office 40+ hours a week. Five months after starting that new job I ran my half marathon, set a personal best and sustained a debilitating knee injury that put my running on hold for over a year.
The cause of my knee pain? A tight hip flexor muscle and weak glutes that had been degenerating since the day I started a 40 hour a week office job.
If you work a desk job and/or lead a sedentary lifestyle, chances are you’re no stranger to office related pain and injuries. Lower back pain, upper back pain, shoulder tightness, migraines, knee issues and hip tightness are just a few of the conditions associated with prolonged sitting and office work. The amount of time the average worker sits for every day is enough to alter joint mechanics and muscle length-tension relationships leading to a cycle of pain and injury.
The Cumulative Injury Cycle and How it’s Keeping You in Pain
Correcting bad posture that alters joint mechanics and muscle imbalances and leads to a cumulative injury cycle is CRUCIAL for any office worker who spends more than 4 hours a day at a desk. Why? If left uncorrected your body goes through the cumulative injury cycle which occurs when one or more parts of the kinetic chain (or the way your body moves) are out of line. The cumulative injury cycle follows this pattern, eventually culminating in muscle imbalances that lead to injury, pain and tissue trauma, thus reinitiating the cycle all over again, keeping you in a perpetual state of pain. Prolonged sitting causes joint movements to be altered and some muscles to become overly tight while others become weak and shortened, thus changing your healthy and regular patterns of movement.
Protecting Yourself from the Cumulative Injury Cycle
Excess and repetition are often a recipe for disaster. Anything done six to nine hours a day, five days a week begins to put stress on the body – especially when it’s done “incorrectly” like sitting with poor posture. Postural dysfunctions can be because of muscle imbalances and can also cause them and further perpetuate them. This is why it’s important to correct both posture as well as muscle imbalances simultaneously to give yourself the best chance at keeping your muscles, joints and bones healthy.
Causes of tissue trauma usually come from poor posture. At the desk that looks like:
- Hunching your shoulders
- Straining your next forward to look at your computer screen
- Repetitive motions like moving your mouse and typing
- Crossing your legs
- Looking up, down or sideways at your computer screen
- Rounding your back and slouching in your chair
Your mom was probably always telling you to “sit up straight” but what she might not have known is that poor posture can have ripple effect like consequences that will affect every part of your body. Much like how me sitting so much led to a tightened hip, which led to a tight quad muscle which put strain on my knee and leg joint movement ultimately leading to knee pain that was so bad I couldn’t walk more than half a mile without pain for over a year.
In our next blog installment we’ll go over the most common postural dysfunctions caused by excessive sitting…and how you can fix them!