With all the changes we’re making whilst hoping to stay safe and not put a massive burden on the NHS, we’re changing our lifestyle habits. This is certainly a good thing, but what if I told you the changes in the way you are working and staying fit may predispose you to imbalances and discomfort at best, or significant lower limb pain at worst? It is important to stay in isolation while continuing to work and stay productive, but no one wants this to result in injury.

Following on from the first-week instalment of this toolkit, we’re now looking at how to reduce the likelihood of lower limb pain and lower back pain while making the transition from the work desk to home. This is an arduous task for some because the home environment isn’t designed to accommodate 8 hours’ worth of work a day, but with this blog, we shall be giving advice to help prevent any discomfort.

Slouching with the head or lower back

So, what is our typical ‘’go to‘’ posture when relaxing in a comfortable environment? So many of us forget what our mothers said to us all those years ago: ‘’stop slouching!’’ Was this good advice? If so, how do we stop ourselves from slouching?

Slouching is a term that is used to describe a lazy, drooping posture. How bad is this for us? Referring to just the lower back, Snijders et al 2004 (1) states slouching puts strain on the ligaments and could even cause the notorious slipped disk in chronic slouchers. 

How do we fix it? Slouchers will be pleased to learn that there are a few techniques that can help resolve their slouching tendencies. The first intervention should be a lumbar support, as it has been shown to nearly completely remove the unwanted strain in the lower back and disks (1). The one issue with this is that it needs to be done properly, too little of a lumbar support won’t do anything and too much of a support will cause other issues.

Another quick fix is to put your laptop or computer at a reasonable height. Your slouching could be caused by having the screen on of your lap or too low down, as the picture demonstrates. As you can see, the lady’s screen is about 5 inches below where it should be, causing her to lean forward in an unconventional way. As a quick test, place your hand flat over your lower back and adopt the position in the picture. You will probably find that it is causing your lower back to tighten and compress. It goes without saying – this is undesirable.

Crossing the legs

Crossing of the legs is so commonplace in desk-based workers, it is one of the biggest reasons for lower back pain, hip pain and even knee pain. Sitting with one leg crossed can:

lower limb pain
  • Cause imbalances in the spine (2)
  • Rotates the pelvis (3)
  • Compress the sacroiliac joint (4)
  • Stretch, weaken and compress the glute tendon (causing tendinopathy)
  • Cause varicose veins (5)

All of the above can cause both back and hip pain (6). On top of this, research conducted by Park & Bae, 2014 (7), suggested that adopting this cross-leg posture is worse than slouching as it creates more pressure on your supporting hip muscles, and rotates both the pelvis and the spine, causing imbalances.

So how can this be prevented? It is actually difficult to prevent since every one of all age groups seems to find it comfortable, which, of course, only makes the problem worse. Part of the issue is that people are seen to adopt this posture because they have been sitting down for a long period of time and postural fatigue kicks in, so the next most comfortable posture would be to cross one leg over the other.

 With this in mind, we have two strategies for you. Standing up every 20-45 minutes will help reduce muscle fatigue and lower limb pain and discomfort. If this doesn’t work, then putting a pillow on, or in between, your knees can stop your body naturally adopting this posture because you don’t want to drop the pillow on the floor.

Drastic change in your workout regime

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It seems that most people who are transitioning from work to home are trying to stay fit, which is something that should be widely encouraged. The only negative to this is that changing the normal exercise routine can cause tendon pain, which is called tendinopathy. To learn more, please read our blog.  The main advice is to try to exercise in stages and not put your body under a new type of strain all at once. Examples of this are: don’t increase your weekly run mileage by more than 10%. If you prefer to lift heavy weights in the gym, don’t try and do 100 body-weight squats when you’re used to lifting 8-12 repetitions of a heavy weight, because that may also disrupt the tendon, causing lower limb pain.

For any further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask:

0161 209 2980

info@movementandwellbeingclinic.co.uk

Ed Madeley M.Ost

References

  1. Snijders C.J., Hermans P. F., Niesing R., Spoor C. W., Stoeckart R., The influence of slouching and lumbar support on iliolumbar ligaments, intervertebral discs and sacroiliac joints. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2004 May;19(4):323-9.
  2. Jung YG: Effects of leg crossed sitting on the trunk muscle activities during the computer work. Yonsei University, Dissertation of master’s degree, 2005
  3. Andersson BJ, Ortengren R, Nachemson AL, Elfström G, Broman H. The sitting posture: an electromyographic and discometric study. Orthop Clin North Am. 1975 Jan; 6(1):105-20.
  4. Snijders CJ1Hermans PFKleinrensink GJ. Functional aspects of cross-legged sitting with special attention to piriformis muscles and sacroiliac joints. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2006 Feb;21(2):116-21. Epub 2005 Nov 2. 
  5. Sahrmann SA: Diagnosis and treatment of movement impairment syndrome. New York: Mosby, 2001, pp 61–64.
  6. Yongnam Park.,, Youngsook Bae,. Comparison of Postures According to Sitting Time with the Leg Crossed Department of Physical Therapy, Daewon College, Republic of Korea, Department of Physical Therapy, College of Health Science, Gachon University: Yeonsu-dong, Yeonsu-gu, Incheon, Republic of Korea