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Sitting Ergonomics

Dear desk jockeys, (an open letter)

Dear desk jockeys,

Dear desk jockeys,

We sit at a computer desk 40+ hours per week. The human body wasn’t designed to do that. It actually wasn’t designed to be in ANY one (same) position that long. It’s only going to cause massive pain and dysfunction in our bodies. 

As desk jockeys, it’s not our fault. But, it IS our responsibility to adapt, change, and heal.

Many years ago, it was a fascinating new concept to sit at a computer desk and make a living. People realized they could pay for a house, cars, all their bills while not even getting out of their chair. They realized they hardly had to move at work any more. Work was going to be great and life was going to change tremendously. They were right about one of those.

They had no idea that massive repetition and overuse would completely burn out muscles and tendons to their core. Desk jobs have gone from a simple concept to a complex, misunderstood way to make a living. It’s destroying our bodies physically and mentally.  

I’m not here to say, leave your desk job and find a more active career. Some people are just straight up required to sit at a desk to do the job they love (or at least plan on sticking with for the next 20 to 30 years). There’s no way around that for them. I’m here to help people improve their sedentary (sitting) quality of life, by sharing my own personal experience. I became passionate and obsessive about the most efficient ways to heal and prevent future pain caused by sitting at a computer desk. I call it Sitting Ergonomics

Everything you’ll read here is based on my personal journey while sitting at a desk (40+ hours a week for 12 years). After years of chronic pain, low energy, and lack of mental clarity, nothing motivated me more to find easy-to-implement solutions to the multiple problems, all caused by one thing: sitting at a computer desk. My goal was to wake up pain-free and energetic every day.

dear-desk-jockeys

Understand the problem.

The first step, in healing pain caused by sitting at a computer desk, is understanding why it happens. The first step is not making a doctor appointment. It’s understanding the problem better for yourself. Enter the dreaded term: repetitive strain injury.

repetitive strain injury – a condition in which the prolonged performance of repetitive actions, causes pain or impairment of function in the tendons and muscles involved (definition credit: Google)

Notice that the only body parts listed in that definition are tendons and muscles. Muscles are connected to tendons. Tendons connect those muscles to bones, very often at a major joint. Muscles get shorter and tighter after repetitive strain and overuse. It pulls on the tendon, overextending it between the muscle and the bone. This is very painful at the joint. But the problem isn’t the joint. The cause of the problem begins with the tight muscle. The effect of the problem is pain in the joint. We must heal the tight, unhealthy muscle before we can heal the pain in the joint.

Repetitive strain injuries can shorten, lengthen, tighten, weaken, and deactivate muscles and tendons to the point where they don’t work properly anymore. They cause problems in other areas of the body. A tight muscle in the lower back causes pain in the knee? Wtf? That’s what we’re up against. It’s like whac-a-mole.

What can we do about it?

Not go to an orthopedic specialist (just to get a knee x-ray and a prescription). He could have 12 to 25 patients that day. He won’t be able to truly focus on your problem and come up with a holistic solution.

We also cannot rely on the physical therapy industry. In my experience, they told me to ice my knee (a temporary pain relief). Or, to stretch and strengthen a muscle that’s so unhealthy, it’s completely given up its function. I’d always get stuck with a young PT fresh out of college. They’ve never sat at a desk 40 hours a week. They just finished a whirlwind 6 or 7 years of college where they were so overwhelmed, they didn’t know which way was up. They’ll never truly understand the frustration and pain of a repetitive strain injury to the extent that we have. Plus, $60 an hour (2 to 3 times a week) adds up really fast.

Those routes are incredibly expensive and minimally effective. And that’s not even the main problems with them. These specialists only have between 15 minutes to an hour each session to try and figure out a massive confusion of muscle tension going on inside your body. They might figure out one of your problems, but there are 8 more hiding and waiting to be discovered.

Computer Posture Checklist

Some people have been accumulating this massive tension for 10, 20, 30 years! Over the 12 years throughout my career, I sat at a desk for over 27,000 hours. And I’m not even 40 yet. There’s no miracle answer that’ll be discovered inside a one hour appointment. Don’t settle for that predisposed route of inefficiency.

Ortho’s and PT’s are incredibly smart people. But they aren’t going to figure out what habits you’re doing wrong 24 hours a day. Doctors have their place, but they aren’t the best option in battling repetitive strain injuries.

If we really want to attack repetitive strain and bad posture, we need to hold ourselves more accountable for our own actions. No one knows what’s going on inside your own body better than yourself. Our own knowledge and body awareness is our most valuable asset. And we can always improve our mastery of it.

No matter how good our posture is, sitting at a computer desk (for long periods of time) causes massive confusion all throughout our body.

When we hunch forward to type, click, and see the computer screen better, the muscles and tendons on the front of our bodies get shorter and compressed. These are known as anterior (chest, abs, biceps, hips, front of neck).

Simultaneously, the muscles and tendons on the back of our bodies get longer and overextended. These are known as posterior (back, butt, triceps, back of neck).

This massive confusion pulls our spines out of alignment continuously. Going to a chiropractor will help, but we also have to take full accountability for improving our daily actions.

We’ve got a lot of work to do. It’s important to be patient and consistent, while changing our habits permanently for the better.

It’ll be a long journey of healing, but don’t get discouraged. Take a balanced approach from different angles of wellness. We need to think outside the box, while also maintaining a sense of simplicity and cost efficiency.

Solution: Take basic, consistent action.

Sitting at a desk is by far the most destructive thing I’ve ever done to my body. It’s not going to be solved by just “sitting up straight”.

We need to approach sedentary wellness with a balanced approach from many angles:

Hydration – Make sure you are drinking enough water. Click here to read about how hydration is directly related to how good your posture is. Also, make sure the majority of the water you drink is high-quality. Tap water may be clean of bacteria. But it’s not fully clean of the chemicals it takes to kill that bacteria. These chemicals (such as chlorine) won’t kill us, but they clearly hold back our performance and healing capabilities. Instead, opt for water that’s been filtered by reverse osmosis.

Nutrition – First things first, take your vitamins. Repetitive strain and overuse decreases the blood flow throughout our muscles, tendons, and tissues. When blood flow is decreased, the essential nutrients we get from food and water are not properly circulated throughout our tissues. There are ways to improve this lack of nutrients problem, as well as ways to enhance their circulation throughout our body. Taking vitamins is one of the most powerful force multipliers of all my good habits. Click here for an article I wrote that gives an eye-opening perspective on all-natural, high-quality vitamins. 

Second, I’m no nutrition expert, but the basics we need to know for a healthy sedentary lifestyle are not rocket science. Eat real, natural, organic, non-GMO foods as much as possible. Cook with olive oil, not butter. Eliminate soda. Minimize fried foods and caffeine (ideally, eliminate them altogether).

Third, know the difference between unsaturated fat vs. saturated fat. Unsaturated fats are healthy. They are a great source of energy for athletes. It’s stored as a liquid at room temperature (easy to burn off when it’s inside your body). Minimize excessive saturated fats. They are stored as a solid at room temperature (very hard to burn off when it’s inside your body). Some examples of unsaturated fat are olive oil, avocados, almond butter, and nuts. If you eat eggs every morning, cook them with olive oil instead of butter. It’ll make a small difference in taste. However, it’ll lead to a large decrease in your body fat over the long term. It’ll also lead to an increased level of energy.

Posture – There’s a lot involved here. We’ll keep it as easy-to-implement as possible. I’ve created a Computer Posture Checklist that’s quick and basic. Download it for free here. You can post it up at your desk to refer back to often. Don’t struggle to memorize everything. A healthy sedentary lifestyle is a long, consistent journey.

Breathing – Breathing is a huge variable when it comes to posture, regardless if we are sitting or active. Breathing technique can be our best friend or our worst enemy. The choice is ours. Click here to read about a very effective breathing technique that’s changed my life.

These small, attainable solutions are just the beginning. To keep up with the latest crucial content on Sitting Ergonomics, sign up for my email newsletter at SittingErgonomics.com/newsletter. In addition to Hydration, Nutrition, Posture, and Breathing, I cover other sub-topics such as Body Awareness, Self Healing, Professional Healing, and Sleep Quality.

In conclusion,

Proper Sitting Ergonomics not only decreased my everyday pain. It improved my productivity, energy, mental clarity, flexibility, strength, and range of motion. It’s all relevant, whether you’re in the gym, or riding that desk like your life depends on it. We need to realize we can get massive long-term results by making small, basic changes to our everyday habits.

The goal isn’t to be obsessive or perfect. It’s to be conscious and grounded. Be aware of the energy you are consuming and exerting. Is it good for you or toxic?

Surround yourself with people who make you better. Have respect for your mind and body. Reward yourself. Move functionally. Be open-minded. Learn something everyday. Always grow. Always evolve.

Finally, never let that desk beat you up 😉

Sincerely yours,

Todd Bowen of Sitting Ergonomics

P.S. One favor…click the Facebook button below to share and tag your desk jockey friends/family who’ll benefit from this article. Thanks for your generous time and energy 🙂

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