Over the last month our routines have all changed. Our communities have responded by keeping in touch virtually, not just for work, but for just about EVERYTHING! Work, school, church, shopping, conferences, exercise classes, webinars, doctor and PT visits, social get togethers, even wine tasting parties… you name it and someone is doing it virtually.
In one respect, I have welcomed the slower pace of not rushing place to place every day. We are so lucky to have this technology that is keeping up “together”, but I have certainly seen a physical cost. I like to call it “fanny fatigue”. And I mean that literally. I’m tired of sitting so much, and daily I’m hearing more and more stories from clients about pains that have started since increasing their computer time. On top of that, the change from crazy schedule to stay at home was so quick, that no one had a chance to set up their home office properly and ended up sitting in kitchen or dining room chairs that are not made for long term sitting.
In my own house we have dealt with elbow pain, neck pain, and back pain. You can see why...
So what is the best thing to do?
Here is a short list of small changes that can make big improvements for your posture when working on the computer and avoid the aches and pains that come with prolonged sitting and repetitive movements.
1. Adjust the height of your monitor so that you can look straight ahead. Ideally, the top line of the text on your screen should be at eye level. You may need to be creative and stack some books for boxes to bring your screen up. Your monitor should be about an arms distance away from your face (20-40 inches away).
2. Support your low back with a back rest if your chair does not have one already. You may use a pillow or a towel roll to fill in the curve of your back. I tell my clients if you can slump down and roll your shoulders forward, you do not have enough back support. The back support will back it easier for you to sit straight and have your arms by your side instead of reaching forward.
3. Adjust the height of your chair or keyboard so you have a 90-110 degree angle at the elbow. This will allow your wrist to lay flat (neutral position).
4. Your feet should be flat on the floor to provide support for your back. After adjusting you chair to fit the desk or table height, you may find that you need a small stool or box under you feet to keep them flat. You need to have a small gap between the back of your knees and the chair seat.
Need some help figuring your space out?
Telehealth and virtual PT can make this super easy and convenient! With a phone camera (and some help in your house), a physical therapist can look directly at your specific set up and make recommendations to improve your positioning, relieve stress from painful joints, and exercises to get you back to work (or school, or wine tasting...) pain free!
It’s mid January, which is about the time that resolutions start to fall off. Some research suggests that by February each year, 80% of resolutions have already been broken. Making a new habit is hard enough, but especially hard if you have other challenges or pain to overcome.
Or maybe, you didn’t even make a new resolution because you are resigned to inactivity due to back pain? So far this year (and it’s only the first full week), I’ve had clients tell me that..
1. Get Your Joints Moving!!
Movement is the key! Moving you to better health! These are phrases spoken in our clinic frequently. But when your joints are stiff, movement is often a challenge. It’s important to gain movement in the joints before strengthening, or else you will start compensating and create a whole new problem. Sometimes a hot shower is enough to get you moving, or maybe it’s getting back to a stretching program that has been helpful in the past. If you have a chronically stiff back, I recommend you see a movement expert (like a physical therapist) to learn a safe way to regain mobility before you start a strengthening program.
2. Pace Yourself!
We all tend to get very excited about new goals and jump in full force. How many of us have felt SO motivated with a new workout and then couldn’t move the next day? (I did it last week). Even when you have a good, safe exercise plan, “overdoing it” will could cause muscle soreness, inflammation, or re-injury to the low back. Our muscles provide support around the spine, but with an exercise routine those muscles are not prepared for, they will easily fatigue and fail to provide the necessary support your body needs for optimal function.
3. Stay Hydrated
One of the biggest mistakes that could be contributing to your pain and zapping your energy is being dehydrated. Dehydration can cause muscle aches, pains, fatigue, and dizziness. Recovery after a workout is delay with dehydration. Try to drink water throughout the day and avoid excess caffeine, including coffee, tea, alcohol.
4. Get Assessed by an Expert.
Your first thought may be to see your doctor before starting a fitness plan. While that’s not a bad idea for medical clearance, not all medical doctors are fully experienced at evaluating back pain. Medical doctors will send you for imaging and look for serious problems, like broken bones, but they do not take the time to assess your movement in detail and look and muscle imbalances. A specialist physical therapist will assess you in detail and will be able to give you more specific information on how your pain may affect any exercise or activity that you want to start. A physical therapist can make recommendations of how to customize your plan, give you reasonable expectations, and send you off towards your new goal with decreased risk for injury. If you need help trying to figure out a way to start – click here to schedule a free discovery visit with me to create a resolution you can stick with.
Happy New Year – Keep moving toward better health!!!
We help active adults get back to exercising, feeling fit, and participating in the activities they love without medications, injections, or surgery.
Catherine Courtney, PT
Specialist Physical Therapist