Reaching Your Potential

The trouble with most jobs and a lot of social activities these days is that it involves sitting.

A sedentary job can undermine athletic ambitions, yet many therapists do not pay enough attention to the significance of this factor.

Sitting for long periods during the day can adversely affect an athlete’s performance in their chosen sport and is quite often a predisposing factor in injury.

Remember that athletes are not just those who we see on TV, but the 30 year old delivery man who is trying to break the 3 hour marathon barrier, or the 40 year old lawyer who is an amateur touch football player, or finally, the 50 year old receptionist trying to keep fit and continue playing golf and break her handicap.

These are the people who are forced to sit all day.

In most people, prolonged sitting will cause some or all of the following –

  • Tight hip muscles,
  • Limitation of spinal movement in the lower and middle back,
  • Overactive and tight shoulder muscles,
  • Weak upper back muscles,
  • Poked chin posture.

These problems can not only impede performance but lead to pain such as headaches, neck pain, low back pain, rotator cuff impingement to name a few.

The better the posture one can maintain during the day the less likely it is that the above areas will become problematic.

The more longstanding the problem the more ingrained it will be.

The solution starts with education.   The person must first learn how to put their body into good posture during the day and how to hold their spine in the correct position.

Many people try to sit up through their lower back yet forgetting their middle back and shoulder girdle.

The work station needs to be set up properly to modify the height and placement of office equipment.  A lumbar roll may be required.  Consult your physio for any further advice or screening to help you reach your maximum potential. 

Workplace rules for the sitting athlete -

  • Do not hold the phone receiver between shoulder and ear – use a headset,
  • Keep the computer mouse close enough that the elbow remains close in to the body,
  • Distribute all frequently used desk items evenly between left and right hand’s reach,
  • Keep feet comfortably flat on the floor,
  • Ensure the chair has a relatively high and straight back rest.

Baseline flexibility exercises for the sitting athlete -

  • Lie over a rolled towel or high-density foam roller (placed perpendicular to spine) in supine to stretch the thoracic spine joints into extension,
  • Lie on your tummy and push up into extension through the lumbar spine,
  • Stand six inches away from a wall, knees slightly bent and back and shoulder blades flattened against the wall, then pull in the chin to reverse the neck curve,
  • Stretches to hip muscles, calves, hamstrings and thigh muscles.
  • By Melanie Roberts

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