The result is that for a large portion of the day our spine is flexed. At the gym, you may perform loaded exercises like the deadlift, squat, kettlebell swing, or shoulder press. If your back rounds at all during those exercises, you are on a pathway to pain. “Imagine your disc like it’s a hamburger with lots of mustard,” says McGill. “When you squeeze the bun on one side, all the mustard shoots out the other.” Each vertebral disc in your spine is made of layers of collagen rings with a gel-like nucleus in the middle. When flexed under load, the rings become stressed and begin to loosen up and divide. If this occurs regularly under load, the gel begins to work its way out of those layers.
Without ‘loading’ your spine, the gel would stay safely contained in the tough collagen rings. However, sitting all day, plus flexing your back during exercise causes the nucleus to squeeze through the loosened collagen layers. In the worst-case scenario, enough gel seeps through creating a disc bulge that presses on a nerve. Your body initiates an inflammatory response, which can cause muscle spasms and sometimes lead to excruciating pain. Suddenly, it hurts to bend over to put on your socks. Stopping exercise is not the answer but changing your gym routine and limiting your ‘sitting’ time will help. Performing a simple core routine that is easy on the spinal discs while creating as much stability and endurance as possible is the answer according to McGill.
Finally, no matter how comfortable you are at your desk, prolonged, static posture is not good for your back. Try to remember to stand, stretch and walk at least a minute or two every half hour. Moving about and stretching on a regular basis throughout the day will help keep your joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons loose, which in turn will help you feel more comfortable, more relaxed, and more productive.
While it is a natural tendency to want to rest our backs by sitting rather than standing, in many cases it is bad sitting posture that’s contributing to the problem. Being mindful of preserving a correct sitting position, keeping core muscles toned to support the spine will help keep your back in its best possible shape.
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