Our ever increasingly indoor lifestyles are not just affecting our health-related behaviors, but also our physiological sensitivity to chronic pain, musculoskeletal injury risks, and muscle tissue structure. While an entire generation of people evolved into the “Information Age,” so to did a generation of chronic back pain sufferers. As the nation began to stay sitting down the pain and general injury rate went up. Human biology has a tendency to eliminate, or atrophy, body parts that are not in use. A prime example is the appendix: a once necessary organ that humans evolved away from needing. Unfortunately, our spines and musculoskeletal structures are still highly needed, despite the growing trend of pain, injury, and weakness. The human body uses pain signals to tell us, “HEY! PAY ATTENTION TO THIS RIGHT HERE!” Essentially, our muscle tissue is yelling at us to get up and allow stimulation to occur or else the tissue could die.
Anthropologically, our bodies have undergone a multitude of evolutionary processes to achieve bipedal locomotion, or walking upright on two legs. However, the evolution of poor posture and a physically inactive society weakened the lumbar spine, allowing our once robust ancestors to become vulnerable to injury and chronic pain.
Most people, including myself, spend far too much of their day sitting down, allowing muscles to tighten and, thus, reinforcing poor postural habits. Seated jobs lead to the inevitability of tight hamstrings, quadriceps, gluteal, and erector spinae muscles. Tight hamstrings alone can, and will, pull the structural back muscles down, further skewing posture and increasing the risk of exercise or simple activity-related injury.
Final Thoughts – Pain and Injury
Before you rush off to the gym, try to make a single change for an entire week. In addition to your normal routine, get up and stretch your hamstrings and lower back when you wake up, during your lunch break, and before bed. Maybe go for a little walk during lunch or eat standing upright one day. This will start to get the blood pumping again, reduce stiffness and work fatigue, but most importantly, keep your muscles from staying tensed throughout the entire day. If you are completely inactive, this is a good way to work up to a new health and fitness routine. If you are just off your routine, by the time you reach the gym, your muscles will be feeling more awake, your workout will be more successful, and your risk of injury will have decreased. Remember to stand up and MOVE! Your body will thank you.