You may have to sit differently to get rid of back pain.
When I sit, my back hurts.
This has been happening for the past 10 years. And no matter where I am - at work, in a restaurant, even at home on the couch. My loins shout: “Stop sitting!”
To reduce back pain, I bought a knee chair for work . Then stand up to work. Then she returned to the usual chair, because it hurt me to stand.
I went to doctors, orthopedic surgeons and pain specialists. I mastered Pilates, increased my flexibility and muscle strength. At some point, my press became so strong that my husband began to call it a “plank.”
These tools helped a little - first. But the pain never went away. So a few years ago, I decided to take it for granted: a sitting position hurts me, and it always will be.
And then in November I went to the Jen Scherer studio in Palo Alto, California. She participates in an ever-growing movement on the West Coast of the United States that teaches people to move, sit, and stand like they did in the past — and as people in some other parts of the world do. For the past 8 years, Scherer has helped people reduce back pain.
I interviewed Scherer about bending . But she saw that it hurt me. And I shared my story with her.
Her answer made me speechless: “When you sit, you find yourself in a state that helps you achieve heavenly pleasure in your joints and back,” she said. “It’s not the process of sitting that hurts you, but how you sit.” Do you want me to show you how to sit properly? ”
Do hunters and gatherers sit less than us?
Recently, more and more conversations have been going on about how many Americans are sitting. There is a feeling that we sit more than any other cultures of the world - or even any cultures that have ever existed. For the first time in the history of mankind, we sit for quite long periods of time, and on a daily basis.
Anthropologist David Reichlen of the University of Arizona thinks otherwise. "No, according to our data, this is not so," says Reichlen.
Reichlen studies modern hunters and gatherers , the Hadza of Tanzania. They feed mainly on food from the wild - tubers, honey and roasted porcupines. And, without a doubt, they are very actively producing food.
They climb trees and cut them down to get honey. They dig the ground in search of tubers and prick nuts. “They have an active upper body,” says Rachel. “And they spend a lot of time on their feet — and they walk pretty fast.”
On average, adult Hadza people spend 75 minutes a day doing the exercises, Rachel says. This is much more than most Americans. Many of us do not gain a measly 2.5 hours a week, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States [these are general guidelines of the World Health Organization / approx. trans.]. Therefore, there is no doubt that the health of the Hadza cardiovascular system is better than that of most Americans.
But do Hadza really sit less than we do? A few years ago, Reichlen and his colleagues decided to find out. They supplied heart rate sensors with about 50 adults for eight weeks to Hadza, and measured how often they sit during the day. The results shocked Reichlen.
“Hadza is resting about as much as we Americans,” he says. “About 10 hours a day.” For comparison, Americans on average sit around 13 hours a day, as reported in a 2016 study . But what is interesting: Hadza does not have such back problems as the Americans, even with age.
“We haven’t found this out,” says Reichlen. - Not to say that we have many studies of pain syndromes in the muscles and joints of the Hadza people, but these people show high activity throughout their lives. With age, a certain decrease in activity is observed, but it cannot be compared with what is seen in the USA. ”
The question is not how much we sit, but how exactly
Perhaps Scherer is right. Perhaps the problem with back pain is not related to how long the Americans sit, but how they sit. “Yes, I think this is a significant part of the whole issue,” says Reichlen.
The orthopedic surgeon Nomi Khan agrees . “Most of us are sitting wrong, and we definitely exceed the load on our spine,” says Khan, who performs spinal surgery at the Sutters Health Foundation in Palo Alto. Khan says that if we change the way we sit, it will help us reduce back problems. “We should sit less and we should sit better,” he says.
Over the past hundred years, many Americans have lost the art of sitting, he says. Most of the people in the US, even the children, are sitting in one way, which is very heavy on their backs. You may be unaware that you are also doing this. But it’s very easy for other people to notice. It is done this way: look at the person sitting on the side, in profile, so that you can see the shape of his spine.
Chances are that his back bends in the form of the letter C, or some kind of it. Or imagine a cashew nut sitting in a chair. This has two characteristic signs - the shoulders of a person hang over the chest, and the priest sticks forward. Such a posture hurts your back, says Khan.
“Most people tend to round their backs while sitting,” says Khan. “Their spine is in the wrong position, and they usually have more back problems.” Back problems accumulate because when you sit in the shape of a letter C, or a cashew nut, you can damage the small shock absorbers in your spine, intervertebral discs.
“You can imagine such a disk as a donut with jam,” says Khan. “When you sit in the shape of the letter C, the front of the donut is squeezed harder than the back.” And what happens if you put pressure on one half of the donut? Jam will squeeze out.
Your intervertebral discs are about the same. Sitting in the form of C over time leads to disc degeneration. Or one side of the disk may begin to bulge. "The disk can then begin to press on nerves, or burst," says biomechanic William Marras , director of the Spine Research Institute at Ohio University.
“If your disks are damaged, you have a big problem,” says Marras. “Therefore, in biomechanics, we do everything to protect the discs.”
In his studio, Scherer takes a photo of a gray-haired man sitting at the loom. He is at least 60 years old. “The photo was taken in the Indian state of Rajasthan,” says Scherer. - A person sits at a loom for many hours every day, just like we are at a computer. And yet his spine is straightened. ”
Straightened - to put it mildly. His spine resembles an exclamation mark. His shoulders are laid back. His muscles seem relaxed and flexible.
I have observed similar sitting postures in many other village locations around the world — for example, in eastern Libya during the Ebola outbreak , and in the countryside of Yucatan .
No need to look far into the history to find a similar position in the United States. Photographs and drawings of the beginning of the 20th century demonstrate how many Americans sit with their backs straight and their shoulders pulled back, in a similar way, like a man at a loom. Today, such a pose can be seen in babies and small children.
Scherer says that one of the problems is that our culture concentrates on trying to fix the upper body. “Sit up straight,” say the teachers and parents, “and most of the people immediately begin to bulge their breasts.
But this is absolutely not the right thing to do, says Scherer. “Hearing the word spine, most people lift their chests because they want to take the correct posture,” she adds. “But when I see it, I want to say, 'No! This leads to back pain. Raising your chest, you only aggravate back pain. "
Instead of concentrating on the chest or shoulders, says Scherer, you need to pay attention to the lower part of the body, below the waist - the pelvis. Simply put, on the ass.
“The most important thing that needs to be changed to reduce back pain is the location of the pelvis,” she says. - Imagine a pyramid of children's cubes. If the base of the pyramid is unreliable, its top has no chance. "
Pull out the tail to twist them.
Sitting in the studio Scherer, I look at my profile in the mirror. And immediately see the shape of the cashew nut. Looks ugly. My shoulders hang over the chest, and the pelvis is tucked under the spine.
To imagine how to properly move the pelvis, Scherer offers to imagine that you have a tail. If we were arranged like dogs, then the tail would be located at the base of the spine. “Sitting in posture C, you are sitting on the tail,” says Scherer. “It looks like a frightened dog with a tail between its legs.” To straighten the C pose, says Scherer, one must “position the pelvis so that the tail can wag.” In other words, you need to pull the tail out from under you. To do this, says Scherer, you need to bend properly when we sit down.
"Bend? - I ask. “Am I bending when I sit down?”
"Yes! Exclaims Scherer. “Every time we sit down, we bend somewhere.” And the way you bend determines how you sit. If you are bending in the back, like many Americans, then you will surely sit in the C or cashew pose. If you are bending your hips [at the hip joint], then you are more likely to sit correctly, not on the tail. “For many people, it’s hard to understand how to bend in the hips,” says Scherer. “This is not intuitive.” But she has her own trick to help people learn how to do it.
“Stand up and put your legs at a distance of 30 cm,” she says. Now place your palms on the pubic bone - imagine a fig leaf covering Adam from the Bible. “When you stoop, this fig leaf — your pubic bone — must pass between your legs,” she says. “It creates an angle between the pelvis and the legs.” This action, in fact, protruding ass behind the spine. “Now let's sit down,” says Scherer. Now my butt — or imaginary tail — is behind the spine.
The next step is to relax the muscles of the back and chest. “Stop pulling out your chest,” says Scherer. Then the rest of the vertebrae will be able to line up in a straight line - I instead of C.
The most amazing thing, says Scherer, is that when the tail protrudes, some of the tense muscles in the legs begin to relax or stretch. “If you remove your pelvis when sitting, your quadriceps (quadriceps) can relax and your hamstrings stretch out,” says Scherer.
I definitely felt my quadriceps relaxing. Muscles were like butter on a warm frying pan — they softened and melted. Oh yes, it was a wonderful feeling. “Wow!” I exclaimed, feeling the chill running through my body.
If you don’t feel your hamstrings stretch and your quadriceps don’t relax, you’re probably doing it wrong, says Scherer. “Then you probably use your lower back muscles to bulge the priests,” she says. - This can lead to increased pain. So do not need to. "
How am I sitting now?
After leaving Scherer's studio, I realized that I was sitting with a tail between my legs — a pelvis — for decades. And getting rid of it was not easy. I had to return to the studio Scherer several times and every day actively work to learn to pull the pelvis out from under me, sitting at the table.
But gradually the muscles around the hips began to relax, and the pain slowly disappeared. Having mastered the new sitting position, I decided to visit Khan and get his opinion. “Could you take a look at my pelvis and tell me what you think about how I'm sitting?” I asked a surgeon who specializes in the spine.
Khan stretched out his hand and laid it on the base of the spine, right on top of the pelvis. “You are sitting perfectly,” he said calmly. - You push the ass back and create a bend in the lower part of the spine. If you sit that way, the pressure on the spine will be less, and you will have less back problems. ”
As a nice addition to this, I feel that I am replicating the shape of Jennifer Lopez’s back: curved at the bottom and straight from above.