7 Reasons Why Standing is Awesome (and sitting is not): Reason #3

by Dr. David Sloan, D.C., DIBCN, FIACN and Dr. Heather Sloan, D.C.

Standing decreases compression on spinal discs

As a reminder, this is part three in a seven-part series about the health advantages of standing for more time than we sit. In part one, we explained how standing helps keep joints healthy, and in part two, we talked about how it can help prevent injuries. Our next topic here, is about how sitting, standing, and moving affect our spinal discs.

Dr. Dave offers some insight:

The discs of the spine are made of the same material as your muscle tendons and ligaments. They are designed to connect one vertebra to another while allowing for the most possible movement. One of the differences between a disc and a ligament is that the disc is filled with a jelly-like substance called the nucleus. This squishy nucleus allows for more movement in the spine.

Another unique feature of discs is that they only have blood flow to the outside. There are no veins or arteries that penetrate to the nucleus area. The only way nutrition can get to the inner portion of the disc is through movement. “Imbibition” is the pumping-like action that moves nutrition in and waste out. This only occurs when the disc is moving.

Certain postures create different loads or pressure on the discs. For this reason, we need to change our body positions often. If we stay in one posture too long, it can put too much pressure on certain discs. Lack of movement leads to the nucleus drying out and the outside of the disc becoming more brittle and cracking. These cracks can then lead to the disc bulging and eventually herniating. That means the nucleus squirts out the disc like raspberry jelly from a doughnut! Yuck!

Your discs need movement to survive. When you walk, bend, twist and squat (yes you should squat, and yes that is a really awkward word—“squat”—go ahead, say it out loud), you pump the disc (and joints) to deliver nutrients and get rid of the garbage. Without movement, the garbage piles up, the discs (and joint cartilage) become depleted and they wear out. “But I take glucosamine” I can hear you cry. Well done. But how do you ever expect to get it were it needs to go? Dude. You need to move.

Get ready for an exciting post next time about how standing helps you burn calories (spoiler alert: standing burns a LOT more calories than sitting!).


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