We recently had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Daniel Gonzalez, DC of Family Health Chiropractic about back pain in the office. Dr. Gonzalez operates one of the largest practices in Austin Texas treating families and elite athletes.
Q What are some of the reasons people working desk jobs get back pain?
A All the current research on sitting is currently demonstrating how the act of sitting is the new smoking with respect to public health.
Sitting causes back pain for 2 specific reasons.
- Abnormal Alignment
- Abnormal Movement.
When you sit, the discs of your spine have to tolerate upwards of 300 to 400 pounds of pressure compared to standing. Additionally, sitting shuts off neural mechanisms important for not just normal spinal function, but brain function. Sitting down for extended periods of time will turn off the musculature in the glutes, legs and calves. This stops the lymphatic system (a passive system driven by muscle contraction), resulting in congestion of tissues around the ankles, calves, knees, hamstrings and glutes; all the important structures to a healthy flexible body.
Today we know that the spine is analogous to a windmill, it generates information that the brain needs to drive communication back out to the body. Sitting completely shuts off this system, causing spinal mis-communication. Bad information IN to the brain, gives bad information OUT from the brain.
Q What are some things a person working in a desk job can do to prevent back pain?
A If possible, transitioning to a standing workstation is the best advice I
can give. Studies are currently finding that standing work stations result
in increased caloric expenditure, improved circulation throughout the body and increased productivity. If a standing work station is not possible, then learning how to sit in a “braced neutral sitting position” is the next best solution. Sitting, like standing, is a technically challenging position and most of us are clueless when it comes to sitting “well” or “correctly”.
Q Can you give me an example of one thing that is supposed to be good for your back while working at a desk job, but can actually cause problems?
A Using exercise balls or physio balls to have better posture. People often
think they can substitute a balance ball for their chair, yet there is little evidence for any benefit. Studies show minimal, if any, postural improvement, and one study even showed spinal shrinkage from using these balls as a chair. What you sit on is far less important than the positions in which you teach your body to sit.
Q What is a common misconception people have about visiting a chiropractor?
A People think that they should visit a chiropractor only when they have pain. This would be similar to thinking that you should only visit the local gym when you feel out of shape or need to exercise. The reality is that you should visit a chiropractor to keep your spine healthy; same way you should visit your gym or exercise to maintain fitness and health.
Q What is one thing someone must consider before treating themselves for back pain?
A Differentiating “Pain/Symptoms” from “Problems”. When people try to
self-treat, they usually go for the pain and symptoms. If someone’s arm was hurting or feeling heavy, they could try massaging it or stretching it out to feel better- but arm pain (pain/symptom) could actually be a sign of heart disease (problems). So knowing what exactly is the cause of the symptom is important and that’s why team work makes the dream work!