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. “
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.
The amazing thing about posture therapy… is that many of my clients and many have fantastic results. Today’s story about my client Korey, is unique because she was able to go from chronic pain to running a 5K in less than 5 weeks FLAT.
In some cases, it can take some time before the body adjusts to a new postural positioning… working on your posture is not a quick fix like taking a pill! But in Korey’s situation, It was a fast and effective process and took very little time to identify her postural deviation and how to fix it.
Korey is a 29 year old nurse and a married mother of two daughters. She came to me with some current pain issues that have been progressively been getting worse as she ages. Her primary problem was lower back pain, with pain more often on her left side, as well as hip pain primarily on the left side. At the time of our appointment she was also experiencing a slight ache in her inner left thigh and right shin/ankle. The magnitude of pain was highly connected her physical activity. If she stands for long periods, exercises intensely, or sits for long periods, the pain is triggered. In the past she had seen a Physical Therapist and chiropractor, and had been given some exercises to help “strengthen” her hips such as clams, squats, and bridges. She said these exercises did help a little. The chiropractor had given her a shoe lift, which didn’t help at all.
At her first appointment with me, she was unable to run more than a mile without pain. So we made it our joint goal to help her get through a 5K race that she had signed up for… only a month later.
Her pictures immediately told a very obvious story to me, and the number one postural deviation that stood out was her pelvic disparity. I checked by palpitating with my hands and confirmed that her left side was in a posterior position (tucked under) and her right side in a slight anterior position (arched forward). I also identified an elevated left hip and an elevated left shoulder.
She presented with valgus knee strain on both sides (knock knees). Her right foot is pronated (flat) and everted (turned out), while her left foot actually showed as supinated (high arch). Her left femur looked internally rotated (turned in).
Both shoulders were rounded and she had a slight forward head. She also presented with some rotation in her spine with both the shoulders and the hips swaying forward on the left side.
The before picture is on the left, after picture on the right.
She took this menu home for 2 weeks and did it about 5 times per week. She wasn’t perfect, but she reported feeling results with this compliance level. She came back for a review 2 weeks later where we adjusted her menu. We took out a few exercises that didn’t seem very effective (mainly stretching… since she is hypermobile and needs more strengthening than stretching). We added more core and hip strengthening work on her second menu.
I’m happy to report that Korey completed her 5K 3 weeks later and ran the entire race! She was very proud of herself, and definitely attributed her success to the e-cise menu. She said she was “sore” the next day, but that it felt more like muscle soreness versus the pain she had been experiencing before. We were both so pleased with her progress in a short 5 weeks- from a painful mile… to a pain-free 3 miles in just over a month!