last week

The Most Important Holiday Exercise

It’s a ridiculous time of year. Joy, happiness, gratitude, and merriment are all supposed to be the important emotions. But isn’t it STRESSFUL trying to actually FEEL these emotions when suddenly you have a thousand things on your plate?

So today I will highlight my most favorite of exercises of all. In fact… you really can’t call it an exercise. Because all you do it lay there and RELAX! Doesn’t this sound amazing?

As benign as it looks, this particular position (called Static Back), has actually eliminated pain for clients almost immediately. I had one client recently report that his hip pain rated at a 9 (out of 10), dropped down to a 3, in one week of doing static back. Just ONE week!

So when you are taking a breather from online shopping, or baking Christmas cookies, or decorating the tree, or making plans, all you have to do is lie in this position for 5 minutes. Get in the correct position, take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and relax. 

There are many bio mechanical reasons why this position is ultimately amazing for you body. First, the hip-flexed position (with your knees bent and directly above the hips) is great for realigning the pelvis if you happen to have rotation (a lot of people do). Holding this position also mildly activates the flexors of the hip. In this position, the thoracic spine is forced to open up and the hands up position helps to open the chest and encourage external rotation in the shoulder joint. Once you’re in this position, gravity and breathing can help realign the body and provide immediate relief to your spine. The goal is to hold Static Back for 5 to 10 minutes a day. 

Here are some more important quick tips on how to perform Static Back correctly:

  1. Find a chair or ottoman that is the correct height for your legs. You want to make sure you have a 90 degree angle at the knee and at the hip joint. The knees should also be placed directly above the hips (not wider). If you notice your legs “splay” out to the sides when you prop up your knees, this means the chair/ottoman is too low for you.  Add a few folded blankets under your shins to elevate the lower legs. There is a great option for a block that works for a lot of body sizes that you can purchase HERE
  2. If you find your head uncomfortably tilted back (where you are looking at the ceiling behind you) that means you might need to place a small rolled up towel under you head. Otherwise keep your eyes looking directly up, turn your palms face up to that your thumbs almost touch the ground, and plant your arms at a 45 degree angle.  
  3. Engage in deep diaphragmatic breaths. Inhale deeply as you expand your ribcage to the sides, then exhale deeply letting all the air out. Do this slowly and deeply and really think about the air moving into your ribcage (versus your neck and shoulders). 
  4. If you want more chest opening, and you know you tend to internally rotate the shoulders (most desk job warriors do!), then try the position below. Take both arms and place them like football goal posts on either side of the body with the palms face up. Be sure not to flare the ribcage up towards the ceiling. Hold this position for 3 to 5 minutes. 

Enjoy this… my holiday gift to you! Please comment below and let me know if you’ve tried this position before. If not, I would love to hear how it feels! I respond to every comment!

Have a safe, healthy, and UPRIGHT Holiday season!

last month

Construction Job Back Pain… RESOLVED!

Some results can’t be summed up in a picture. In the case of this client, Jon, his pictures don’t tell the whole story. Sure, his posture has shifted. But not nearly as much as the shift in his daily energy, his pain relief at his construction job, and his focus on daily pain relieving exercises.

The time between these two pictures is approximately 5 months. In that time, Jon discovered, that when doing his posture therapy exercise menu regularly, he was able to work at his construction based job with less pain, and better productivity.

When he didn’t, his body suffered.

After taking some time off, he came back for more sessions and exercise menus that both integrated therapy techniques (with some tough full body exercises that challenged him) and kept him engaged.

I’ll let him tell you his story in his own words:

“Half of my job is physical labor and one day my back hurt so badly, I had to lay on the floor and NOT move. I was in trouble.

Zeena walked me through some simple stretches that eliminated the pain immediately. I couldn’t believe it. She sent me home with a daily routine to survive the physical demands of my job AND stay out of pain. It worked.

In subsequent sessions she has slowly taken me back to full strength and new routines that rival my army days in the gym.

Her expertise saved my back and my career. I am deeply grateful and look forward to her continued therapy. “

Find out more about VerticAlign’s Posture Therapy Programs, here.

a couple of months ago

Why a Standing Desk is NOT the Solution

Once of my favorite media friendly phrases is, “Sitting is the new smoking”. It’s THE catch phrase used by health professionals to blame our sedentary, technology-driven lifestyle for our posture problems.

It’s a true phrase. Sitting makes us lazy. We hunch, we cross our legs, we slump over a computer because sitting makes us tired.

Of course, there are biomechanical challenges to sitting such as: de-activated glute (butt) muscles, weakness and tightness in the hip flexors, less dynamic tension in the calves, and more demand on the upper body to compensate for generalized hip weakness. 

So of course the marketplace saw an opportunity here… let’s make everyone STAND! Standing desks have become all the rage, charging companies thousands of dollars to upgrade each employee’s workstation at the expense of becoming ergonomically friendly.

I hear it ALMOST every day… are standing desks better?

Short answer…. YES.

Long answer… Not really.

My YES statement is based on the fact that YES, a standing desk can add value to the body by loading the hips better, removing the restriction on the glutes, and adding more blood flow throughout the system.

HOWEVER (and this is a big however), standing still for hours on end comes with its own problems. Upper body hunching is still prevalent at a standing desk. The position and placement of a keyboard can still cause neck and back pain (practice how easy it is to “hunch” even when you are standing). 

It’s common to thrust your hips forward when working at a standing desk causing “sway back”. This particular postural deviation can cause dysfunction in the shoulders, again, creating tension in the neck and upper back. Here is an image of me in sway back while working at my standing desk:

So wait, what is the solution to the problem if standing desks only resolve part of the problem?

This is a huge question. One that is hard to answer, because at the end of the day there is no perfect solution to the fact that your job, your lifestyle, and your technology has contributed to this need to be physically STILL and staring at a computer screen. At the end of the day, the problem here is that our bodies were designed for LOAD and DEMAND to be placed on them on a regular basis.

We were designed to squat, bend, lift, walk, climb, push, pull, and carry our food, our children, our dwelling. We were designed for manual labor. 

So what happens now that our everyday life no longer matches how our bodies were designed? Clearly there is a disparity that is causing unprecedented levels of musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction… how do we resolve this? 

Here are some ideas:

  • Go ahead and invest in a sit/stand desk and alternate throughout the day. This way the body gets varying different demands throughout the day and you’re not SITTING or STANDING for extended periods of time at any given moment.
  • Get movement throughout your day that activates the proper muscles in the posterior (back) side of the body. Make a habit of walking up and down the stairs and doing posture type exercises in breaks throughout your day. VerticAlign offers an amazing program with our “10 Minute Daily Desk Pain Solution” which takes the guesswork out of which exercises to do and gives you the accountability of a daily coach to assist you.
  • When sitting, use a chair such as a ball chair or this ErgoErgo chair to help get more movement into your sitting time.
  • Exercise daily. Don’t just run or walk or climb or bike. Try to integrate posture-friendly exercises that involve multiplanar, multi joint activities and exercises that engage the posterior chain of the body (calves, hamstrings, glutes, calves). VerticAlign can assist with this by creating a daily posture therapy menu for you to do on your own. 

It takes work and commitment to fight the disparity between what our bodies were designed to do and what our bodies are required to do daily. Sitting or standing stationary should be considered a “sport”, which takes daily “cross training” to help us stay healthy within this sporting activity. 

All the fancy equipment (standing desks, posture braces) in the world cannot take the place of  a strong, aligned body that responds properly to physical load and demand on a daily basis. 

Comment below as I would love to hear YOUR experience with a standing desk and how it’s helped or hurt you. 

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