Dancing In My Chair: Managing Arthritis While Sedentary
Last updated: October 2018
Between school and work, the majority of my life has been spent sitting. I spend more than eight hours a day seated, and most of those hours are spent at work or in class. For so many of us with arthritis, desk jobs are the only way we can work; they provide the opportunity to work without being on painful feet all day. But it's a shame that they can be so painful.
People are shocked to find that I am in severe amounts of pain after a day sitting at a desk. Many don't realize that schools and offices are filled with pain triggers. While sitting up straight can be painful in and of itself, an unergonomic chair can make it worse. Workspaces that aren't at proper heights can be quite painful too. But the thing that makes everything worse is the stillness. Being static all day causes us to tense up, sometimes in awkward positions. I'll be the first to admit that looking at my school or work desk fills me with dread every morning.
For someone who is extremely quiet and timid, I don't think twice about stretching in public. Whether it's raising my arms or extending my legs, I'm not shy when it comes to doing what my body needs to feel better. And the sooner I begin, the better. Waiting until I'm already sore means I've waited too long! Moving or gently massaging troublesome joints often from the time I get in until the time I leave makes a big difference.
My classmates say it seems like I never stop moving in my seat. One girl said it looked like I was dancing! While I never get out of my seat to stretch, I know it can be a bit distracting. In the classroom, I always make a point to sit in the back. At work, I make sure to stay in my area and continue my work while stretching, if possible. None of my coworkers don't seem to mind. In fact, I think they're more sympathetic since I'm the youngest person in the office and I usually smell like Bengay.
Sitting for long periods of time isn't healthy for anyone. OSHA recommends taking a break to walk or stand after sitting for long periods of time.1 I take a short walk every hour and a half. On bad days, I take more frequent breaks to stand up.
Walks don't have to be a long; just a quick walk across the room can help. Understandably, getting up can disrupt your productivity. If that's the case, try to sneak breaks in. One thing I like to do is stand while talking on the phone. If you need a break during a lecture, you could record audio on a laptop or phone while you're gone.
Care for yourself
It took me a long time to feel comfortable caring for myself at work or school. At first, I was too insecure to stretch out or wear braces. But the days I let myself be sedentary were some of the most painful. Things got a lot better when I got over the fear of drawing attention to myself by using cushions and stretching.
You are a better student or employee when you feel as comfortable as possible. If you need to stretch, then stretch. If you need to take a walk, go for it. Ultimately, do what you need to do to get through the day. Even if it doesn't take away all the pain, sometimes the little things make things bearable.
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