I saw two very interesting clients this week, who came to see me with an injury they thought was caused by their participation in sport and exercise, but a closer inspection revealed a common problem that most readers of this article are likely to be a victim of.
The first was a 19-year-old female who recently started “cross-fit” and was having problems with her lower back and struggling with high impact activities required such as squats, burpees and star jumps.
At first, she thought the pain was occurring because she had started a new activity but three months later, the problem persisted.
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The second client, a 45-year-old man, who has been active all his life, had noticed an increasing struggle to lift weights. Also, while swimming he had noticed pains in his arms and sometimes even pins and needles in his fingers after a long gym or swimming session.
At first, this client thought it was all to do with getting older and the natural problems that each of us face with aging joints and muscles getting tighter, day-by-day.
But here’s something to think about: If you’re active and like to exercise, be careful not to assume that the pain or stiffness you feel is because of the sport you’re doing. It’s very easy to dismiss other factors that are going on in your life.
Think about it like this: How many hours per week would these two clients typically spend at “cross-fit” or in the pool? Three? Four? or even five?
Now think about the length of time that your body is doing other things like sitting in awkward, unnatural position at work. That total could hit 40 and the root of the problems in both clients was a case of poor posture caused by their day job, inhibiting their ability to exercise. NOT the other way round.
I bet as you read this column, you’ll be doing it in such a way with your neck stooping forwards and your shoulders rounded, lower back curved that will pre-dispose you and make you much more likely to fall foul of a lower back complaint or neck and shoulder tension.
If you spend too much time in poor sitting positions, it is going to affect you and will often create unwanted and unnecessary pain and or stiffness, whatever your age.
Both clients in this story are office workers who like to be involved in regular exercise. So with that mind, here are a couple of tips for any person who sits at a desk in an office, and who wants to avoid injury and keep active all summer long:
1. When sitting make sure you’re upright, your shoulders are back and your ears are level with your shoulders.
2. Adjust the chair or desk so the computer monitor is at a height that’s level with your eyes so you don’t have to look up or down.
3. Make sure everything on your desk is within reaching distance and that your feet are comfortable, with bent knees and both feet flat on the floor, not tucked under your chair or with your legs stretched out. You should also avoid crossing your legs.
If you really wanted to have some fun, how about a five minute stretch every hour? A client once told me of a place he worked at in South Korea, where every hour a buzzer would go off and each of the workers would stop and do a five minute stretch. Do you think it would be accepted here in the factories or offices in the North-East? Unfortunately, I think not, but it really should be, as workers will look and feel much better for doing it and it will help them keep active for longer.