Back and Shoulder Pain Due to Sitting For Long Periods

Each day we place “environmental loads” onto our bodies, whether that’s running with incorrect technique (do you know anyone who runs that’s had coaching on the running technique?), or whether it’s due to the physical demands of our jobs.

What most people don’t realise is that sitting down could be one of the worst physical demands for our bodies.

It’s likely that we spend 8 hours or more sitting each day, whether that’s whilst eating, driving, working or relaxing in front of the TV.

Sitting for long periods (6 hours or more) can cause serious mechanical issues for our joints. Simply put, we aren’t designed to sit down for long periods of time. Our posture begins to falter and our joints begin to pinch, tighten and become weak and tight altogether leading to mechanical joint problems and issues we need to work around to carry out our day to day activities.

Sitting can lead to multiple issues with our joints

  • Tight Hips – Sciatica
  • Low Back Pain
  • Neck Pain
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Shoulder Restrictions
  • Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

Correcting these issues in the gym can be short term because the other 23 hours a day are working against what we’re doing in the gym, think of it as 1 step forwards and 3 steps (or 23 steps) backwards.

Even elite level athletes suffer, athletes can spend 3 – 4 hours training and going through tactical challenges on field but they can also spend 12 hours or more sat down playing video games, at school and other activities.

Our bodies are able to handle all kinds of abuse, but it also has it’s limits and daily repetitive habits will eventually take it’s toll. It’s often slow and unnoticed similar to adding those extra few lbs creeping on over the years.

Our bodies adapt to the environment we place it in whether that’s stressful, or stress-free our bodies will find a way to adapt and survive. If we spend most of our days in certain positions our body will adapt . So if we’re sat with rounded upper backs and tucked hips our joints will adapt and our muscles & tendons will adjust to our demands becoming shorter & tighter, opposite to longer and weaker muscles.

You might ask yourself “when do these bad habits start to take effect and, when do our bodies start to adjust?”

We’ve seen this in children as little as 9 years old – Think about when children start at primary school our children start to spend more and more time seated than playing, running etc. This is a striking similarity to when children start to use poor movement mechanics.

Why don’t we notice these changes?

If sitting with a C-shaped spine or heal striking whilst running was immediately painful we would immediately stop and avoid it in future. Yet like those few lbs of fat that have crept on we barely notice these changes until it’s too late or glaringly obvious to us that something is wrong. By that time our body has adapted to our mechanics and weaknesses have occurred.

What can you do?

The following system is designed to provide all the help you need.

If you we could rely on our 3 or 4 gym training sessions each week to get our posture fixed and sort all our issues out it would be great.

Unfortunately this is not the case, as mentioned previously elite level athletes suffer with these problems too so the gym is not enough. We need to start thinking of how we spend the other 23 hours of our day.

Imagine someone who drinks alcohol every day but can manage a run each morning, you wouldn’t consider them healthy or fit, yet we think we can out train our bad habits. Which is not to say that working out won’t help, it will certainly help strengthen our weaknesses and get us healthier, but it’s not enough on it’s own.

We need to consider our daily habits and posture when we’re seated to allow us to be pain free and move freely. Here are some of the things we can we do to help improve our movement;

  • Stand More – Getting a standing desk (at least ask your H.R. or Occupational Health team before you rebuff the idea) will help improve the amount of calories you burn as well as activating your muscles in positive ways that will result in reduced your pain.
  • Ensure your work space is optimised for your posture and performance needs. Click here for guidance on how to set up your work space.
  • Spend 5 to 15 Minutes Mobilising Each Day – Too many people work out hard in the gym but will neglect to spend 5 – 10 minutes on mobilising and lengthening their joints and tendons. Here’s a Youtube video to mobilise your shoulders.
  • Just move more! Set a reminder for every 30 to 60 minutes (set the timer on your phone to vibrate) and take a walk (you’re due a brew anyway) or stand for just 2 minutes to help your body.

Simply standing throughout the day will not only allow you to reduce aches and pains, but also improve your mechanics, whilst you also burn plenty more calories by increasing your daily activity level. Therefore standing will also provide some assistance in avoiding weight gain for those who take on board the advice here. Using a standing desk can allow you to burn up to 1000 calories MORE than sitting, when you consider that we should aim for a 500 calorie deficit per day when wanting to lose weight, simply standing up more during the day will burn enough calories to successfully lose a significant amount of weight.


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