About 90% of my Somatics clients sit all day long at their work. Many who don't have desk jobs sit more than they need to merely out of habit. Long-term sitting is a fact of life for a majority of the population and it has become a public health hazard. Nowadays many people are catching on to the fact that there is an alternative to long hours spent seated at the desk. One of my blog readers works at a standing treadmill desk and finds it very useful for preventing back and hip pain.
Personally, I'm an advocate of seated Somatic Exercises for about 5 minutes every hour, then getting up and moving any which way you possibly can, whenever possible.
When people sit for long periods of time - especially under stressful conditions, they forget how to do basic, necessary human movements that should be a part of our daily life. Sitting facing a computer demands that we look straight ahead - no twisting, bending, reaching, or squatting necessary. Emotional stress adds another level of stress to our muscles. Our brains - the command center of our muscles - teach our muscles to accumulate tension based upon the task at hand. We become used to slumping, sitting over-arched in our backs, or twisted or collapsed in our torso as we reach for our computer mouse to that we no longer are able to distinguish proper, healthy posture and biomechanics from potentially harmful holding patterns.
Diane came to me several years ago with excruciating headaches, and chronic neck and shoulder pain that required her to go on disability. She had a high stress job working 10-hour days in the financial sector; it was both stimulating, and demanding. She explained that she would sit down at her computer in the morning, open up her emails, and often not look up or move from her desk for hours at a time.
Diane had seen chiropractors, medical doctors, physical therapists, and had cortisone shots; nothing helped her find the answer to her muscle pain.
I saw her four times over the course of six weeks for private clinical Somatics sessions. We use assisted pandiculations and gentle somatic exercises to teach her to eliminate accumulated muscle tension in her back, waist muscles, hips, legs and abdominals. She began to feel her body differently as the pain diminished over time. She went back to work with a renewed awareness of her body, the ability to move her neck, shoulders, and back without pain, an understanding of how to sit properly, and tools to help her self-correct should she find herself falling back into the same unhelpful patterns.
Sitting correctly relieves back, neck, and shoulder pain.
The single most valuable piece of experiential learning for Diane - which she learned in the very first session - was the "seated awareness exercise" from my Pain Relief Through Movement DVD.
Diane wasn't aware of her habit of over-arching her back; she thought that she was sitting up "straight," when in fact, she was contracting her back muscles tightly every time she sat down to work. Her upper body was pitched over her thighs, her shoulders were in front of her hips, and her spine was arched in a bow, rather than stacked on top of her sit-bones. When she learned to release her back muscles and sit up on top of her sit-bones, the tension released all the way up to her neck and shoulders.
Check out Pain-Free at Work for Somatic Exercises you can do at your desk for renewed energy, reduced muscle tension and improved movement.