Most Americans sit too much — nearly 10 hours a day.
And with all that sitting in front of a computer, television or smartphone, we’re inflicting pain on ourselves, according to movement specialist Dr. Derrick Hines.
He preaches one simple message — move.
Hines, owner of Acadiana Pain & Performance Rehab in Lafayette, says an increasing number of his patients are complaining of what he calls “modern movement pain,” which is pain that results from over-reliance on modern technology and lifestyle. It started in the 1960s as the population grew more sedentary with the advent of TV and a shift from industrial to “the office job and the big desk.”
Patients are especially complaining of neck pain with an accompanying headache, which results from changes in our posture, he said.
Called mechanical neck pain and cervicogenic neck pain when headaches are also present, the numbers have shot up over the past 20 years and, Hines says, are continuing to rise.
“In the next 10-15 years, we’ll see some major, major issues if we continue,” he warns.
Low back pain is not new, but Hines also counts it as a leading factor in modern pain issues, attributing it to our long days in the chair.
Hines says research on health and sitting currently suggests that working out at the end of the day does not reverse the negative effects.
“The major problem is how it (sitting) changes the body hormonally,” Hines says. “It starts trying to store your sugars in a sort of hibernation mode. You can’t reverse it unless you take breaks — not just one big break after you sit all day. A break every 30 minutes, even if it’s just to walk briskly around your desk a couple of times, mitigates most changes.”
Hines, who considers his work fairly active, wore a tracker watch to test his own downtime on the job and clocked in a substantial seven hours of sitting in a day.
Since it’s stagnation that causes the damage, Hines advocates getting a timer and putting it on your desk to remind you to get up and move around.
He also recommends while sitting that you “bring your head up, shoulders back, with your hands out as if carrying platters. It just takes practice and education.”
According to Hines, more women have modern movement issues but are generally better at handling pain.
Fashion, he notes, can wreak long-term havoc since high heels keep the foot off the ground, eventually shortening calf muscles and Achilles’ tendons.
“This causes deficits in these structures, which can cause knees to bow and pain in the sacroiliac joint, or SI pain,” he explains. “At the end of the day, women need to spend some time reversing the effect.”
Shoulder bags are another culprit that can cause chronic headaches, neck pain and muscle and nerve issues.
“It doesn’t just change your shoulder,” says Hines. “It changes your whole spinal alignment. Try for a week not carrying your purse.”
Although not ideal, changing shoulders can help offset the trouble.
Young people aren’t immune to modern movement pain.
“We can already see issues in the 8- to 14 year-old group due to video gaming,” Hines says. “You can see when they move, they don’t have full control of their bodies. They’re starting not to develop their range of motion.”
One simple way to loosen tight, contracted tissue that develops from staying in bad positions for long periods, is with a small ball, which Hines frequently hands out.
“This is done by compressing into and rolling over the problem area until either movement improves or pain decreases,” Hines said. “It gives people a good way to get something similar to the hands-on care they receive here.”
Hines teaches internationally in Argentina, Thailand and Italy. And while he admits the Mediterranean diet is superior to ours, in Argentina, that’s not the case.
“Their diet is basically bread and red meat,” he says with a laugh. “But they walk everywhere. They move. We do it lazier than anywhere else.”