Office workers are the new endurance athlete.
Sounds strange but I think we need to start treating these workers like athletes. Just like we get a myriad of overuse injuries with endurance sports such as marathon running, Ironman, Cycling etc, sitting at a desk for 8-10 hours a day comes with a whole laundry list of overused muscles and joints and make us much more prone to injuries. Now you may feel like you sustain some of these injuries outside of work for example bending over and tying your shoelaces sending your back into spasm or doing overhead weights leading to shoulder problems.
In reality, the range of motion deficits which are primary contributors to your injury have built up over time with poor posture and lack of daily movement, and then slowly crept into the way you move when exercising or doing any kind of physical tasks around the house.
Here are some things you should be “training” to prevent injuries.
Upper body – specifically shoulders, neck
1. Pec muscle tightness – These don’t feel tight until you actually have someone palpate or massage them, but this leads to shoulder mechanics issues, and that dreaded tightness in upper back and traps. I measure shoulder position all the time and the symptomatic side is always way tighter in the chest muscles. It leads to poor shoulder mechanics and shows up in clinic with a patient who has hurt their shoulder doing a military press or a sore neck and upper traps area after doing burpees or pushups.
2. Deep neck flexor weakness – Poking your chin forward all day and not using your deep neck flexors, which are like your core but for the neck, leads to weakness. This leads to increased load on the discs and facet joints of the neck. These two structures are a common complaint in clinic. A lot of evidence in the literature has focused on deep neck flexor strength and shows that it plays a large role in reducing neck pain.
Lower Body – Specifically hip and back
1. Tight hip flexors – if you sit all day with your hips flexed at 90 degrees then your hip flexors are shortened. Over time they become a real restriction to hip extension. If you are a runner you need good hip extension or you will begin to extend through your lower back. With repetitive back extension plus the load of running you can expect to load the joints poorly and eventually have pain.
2. Lumbar discs – The pressure on the discs in slumped sitting is enormous and can lead to bulging sometimes even neurological symptoms like pins and needles and numbness or loss of strength.
So as athletes would do, you need to be training your deficiencies. Stretching/massaging/foam rolling the muscles you know are going to be prone to tightness. Strengthening the muscles prone to weakness. Here’s a general list of areas to start with ….
- Upper Trapezius
- Levator Scapulae
- Hip Flexors
- Quadratus lumborum
- Deep neck flexors
- Lower/ mid fibers of trapezius
- Serratus anterior
- Glute medius
For tailored programs it would be best to consult a professional