For the past 20 years, I spent most of my working hours sitting and staring into a screen. That’s about 30,000 hours’ worth. During those years I exercised at least an hour a day, which was a good thing but not good enough to neutralize the additional forces that were grinding my disks while I was sitting. Eventually erosion won and I gave birth to one fat herniated disk this summer.
Of course many other factors probably contributed to my fat disk, including running marathons, biking and hiking thousands of miles. But the 30,000 hours of sitting are a key suspect. I’m not a medical professional, but it seems obvious that human beings aren’t meant to spend 45 hours a week sitting still in a chair. It just ain’t natural.
For someone who is tuned into his body, I’m amazed that I didn’t realize that sitting in the chair was flattening out the natural curve in my lower back (see diagram above — my MRI on right), resulting in increased tear and wear on the disks. In retrospect the simple solution was just to stand up and raise the rest of my desk along with me. And that’s what I finally did this year.
Standing up has benefits starting with a feeling of freedom and more focus. I can now wear my wireless headset and pace, dance, and fidget a lot more freely, which is just more natural activity and calorie burn built into my day.
Most other upright office workers I spoke to also lost weight and improved their digestion. Just imagine your food is on the express train heading south with the help of increased gravitational pull. I also noticed that my shoulders pull back, which makes my spine concave and opens my chest. The whole setup just makes sense.
The only downside to standing all day is the stress on your feet. This is best dealt with a thick-rubber-mat, soft shoes and plenty of time to adjust. I am also thinking of adding a bar stool to take a load off on long calls and to give me a place to take a break.
While my ass was getting flattened during the sitting years, I also started to sleep on my stomach. Another bad habit.
Apparently sleeping face down can exaggerate the arch at the base of your spine and cause strain. One chiropractor advised me to pin or tape a tennis ball to the front of my night-shirt. He guaranteed that my stomach-sleeping days will be over. Ditto for my love-making days as my wife does not play tennis in the dark. 😉
Bottom line — I need to sleep on my back and experiment with a variety of pillows. I might try a configuration like the one in the cool diagram below – poor dude looks like he’s been tasered. I’ll start at the neck with a contoured pillow and add a pillow under my knees to help maintain the normal curve of the lower back. I may even go all out and try a small, rolled towel under the small of my back for additional support. I’ll report back if I mange to wake up.
Heck, if someone had advised me to avoid siting all day and sleeping on my stomach, I’d probably be busy practicing with Cirque du Soleil instead of getting adjusted. Onwards.
How do you love your back? Please share below!