Anyone who suffers from chronic pain in their joints will know what a welcome relief it feels to sit down, but what you may not know is the impact that prolonged sitting can have on the body.
If you are inactive for the majority of the day, not only will the joints start to get stiff, but the muscles also do not stay as elongated. The reduced length in the muscles increases the overall tension and strain on joints, which then exacerbates pain levels. This is also the reason why people suffering from osteoarthritis (OA) often feel most pain and stiffness first thing in the morning, after not having moved the body all night.
Those with office jobs are the most at risk of prolonged sitting, due to the sedentary nature of desk work. Here are some tips to prevent the joints from stiffening, and to keep the body moving throughout the day:
Establish the correct ergonomic setup
Make sure that for the time you are seated at your workstation, it is as comfortable as possible. Remember that it is not only prolonged sitting which can worsen joint pain, but also the angle you sit at. Speak to someone from your HR department regarding your desk setup, noting any particular areas of concern. Some aids may include:
- a standing / adjustable desk so that you can pivot between seating and standing
- a foot or leg rest if you suffer from OA in the lower body joints
- a lumbar support cushion if you suffer from arthritis in the spine, sacrum, or hips
Take regular walks
Instead of sending an email or picking up the phone to call a colleague, take a walk over to their desk and speak to them in person. When you are going to fill up your water bottle or make a coffee, walk to a kitchen or water fountain on the other side of the floor if possible, to give your legs a stretch.
Maximise your breaks
Put aside 5-10 minutes of your morning, lunch or afternoon break to stretch your muscles and relieve the joints of built up pressure. Even the most basic of routines can go a long way. Better still, if your office has a gym or offers workout classes, use this as an opportunity to move your body and incorporate your daily exercise.
Rearrange your desk
If you know that you will be at your desk for a prolonged period of time, make sure that your all of your equipment is within easy reach, and that your keyboard and screens are positioned at the correct angles. If you suffer from osteoarthritis in the hands, also consider wide-barrelled pens, and an ergonomic mouse.
Sitting for long periods times is sometimes unavoidable, but adopting the above tips can go a long way in mitigating the long-term adverse effects associated with it.