Pain from Sitting Too Long? The Anatomy behind Prolonged sitting

“Prolonged sitting is one of the main causes for many of the conditions treated in my musculoskeletal clinic. It often results in office visits with other types of doctors as well,” says Eric K. Holder, MD, a Yale Medicine physiatrist (a physician who specializes in the nonsurgical care of patients with musculoskeletal issues). “It is so ingrained in our society now—people are stationed at desks, seated in front of computers or the TV for extended periods, constantly traveling in cars, trains, and on planes. It’s a major health problem that can lead to many chronic diseases.”The body has all kinds of negative reactions to sitting for long periods,” she says. “In addition to decreasing the blood flow to the legs, sitting impacts things like sugar regulation and blood pressure—by altering the normal function of blood vessels, it feeds into diabetes and heart attacks. We know that the more you sit, the more likely you are to have a heart attack or die from a cardiac cause,” says Dr. Lampert. “It’s an independent contributor, along with how much physical activity you are getting.” Other considerations in heart health are body mass index and waist circumference—in both cases the numbers will go up the longer you sit.“There is no exact formula for how often you should stand up from your desk. But it makes sense to increase the amount of time you are active, whatever you’re doing. Even a short walk every hour is helpful. Many people track their habits and increase their activity once they have clear evidence of their sedentary behavior, too. Anyone can use a step-counting device such as a Fitbit or a mobile device reminder app [free and low-cost ones are available].”Some studies show an association between prolonged sitting and weight gain—and an especially strong link with diabetes, says Wajahat Mehal, MD, director of the Yale Medicine Metabolic Health & Weight Loss Program. This makes sense, he adds. “If you go back 100 years, movement was a constant part of our lives. If you wanted water, you’d have to go out to the well. If you wanted to talk to a neighbor, you’d walk next door.” Today, people eat at their desks or in front of a TV set, where they are Sitting at work and a sedentary lifestyle, in general, both appear to be independent contributors to cancer, just like eating too much red meat or smoking, says Xavier Llor, MD, PhD, co-director of the Smilow Cancer Genetics & Prevention Program and medical director of the Colorectal Cancer Prevention Program. “What we need is a general culture change,” he says.distracted while eating their food. This puts them at risk for eating larger portions, and portion control is key to keeping weight down, hesays.