Sitting pretty: Proper sitting posture

Most of us spend more time at the office than we do at home, which is why it’s so important to consider how our behavior at the office can affect how we feel at home. If you sit at your computer for several hours each day, are you sitting pretty?

Before you look at yourself in the mirror, reflect on your desk and workspace. Specifically, says Alan Zovar, a physical therapist that works at Dandelion Dreams, Inc., (aPhysiquality partner), you should think about the angles in your body as they interact with your desk. Your eyes should be approximately 18 inches away from your computer screen, he says, and they should align with the middle of the screen, to avoid looking down or up too much, which could cause neck strain in the long run. In the same manner, your chair should be centered with the monitor to minimize twisting the head in order to see the screen.

Take a look at how you sit in your chair: Click to enlarge.Take a look at your chair now, and how you sit in it. Adjust the chair’s height in order to be able to rest your elbows at about a 90-degree angle on your desk; if the chair’s arms get in the way, it’s probably better to remove them, Alan notes.

Your forearms should be parallel to your desk and your wrists should be as flat as possible. Alan suggests using mouse and keyboard supports to maintain this posture. And your knees should also be bent at a 90-degree angle. If your feet don’t reach the floor, you can use a foot support in order to properly support the weight of your legs.

Once your desk is properly set up, you can think about your sitting posture. Lumbar support is essential to support the back and reduce back strain. If your office chair is not supportive enough, you can purchase a back support like the Kiss My Back! support from Dandelion Dreams, Inc. The back support will reinforce the natural curve of the lumbar spine. In turn, this straightens the neck, shoulders and upper back. When you’re sitting at your desk, your torso, neck and head should all be upright, without any slouching or straining.

Frequent phone users should use a headset to avoid balancing the phone between their shoulder and ear.Other office behaviors are just as important, reminds Richard Baudry, a physical therapist and the founder of Baudry Therapy Center, a Physiquality member in the New Orleans area. He cautions workers to keep their desk — and the space underneath it — clear of clutter, in order to enable easy movement around your workstation. Frequent phone users should use a headset to avoid balancing the phone between their shoulder and ear, which can create neck and back pain. And frequent movement is key — stand up once an hour to stretch your back or take a walk to the building cafeteria to grab a drink.

If you’re concerned about your workspace, use this OSHA worksheet to evaluate how your desk is set up. Or contact a physical therapist near you to evaluate your entire office, ensuring a healthier — and happier — team.

 

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What is Frozen Shoulder?

 

Like back pain, shoulder pain can be caused by many things — stress, exercise (or the lack thereof), working in the same position for a long period of time. But if you have chronic shoulder pain and stiffness, as well as limited movement in your shoulder joint, especially over a longer period of time, you could have adhesive capsulitis, more commonly known as frozen shoulder.

Clinically speaking, “a frozen shoulder is the inflammation, scarring, and shrinkage of the capsule around the shoulder joint,” says Chelsea Cole. A physical therapist assistant at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality clinic in Tennessee, she adds that the cause of the inflammation and scarring is often unknown, unfortunately.

"I do not have a 40-year-old shoulder. I'm not even 30."Chelsea does point out that several factors can increase one’s risk for developing adhesive capsulitis:

The Mayo Clinic says that frozen shoulder develops over a long period of time, and that there are three stages of the condition: the freezing stage, when any shoulder movement of your shoulder causes pain, and you start having limited movement in the joint; the frozen stage, when the pain is less intense, but the shoulder is more stiff, making it more difficult to use the joint; and the thawing stage, when your shoulder recovers and you can use the joint more easily.

Physical therapy can reduce the pain associated with frozen shoulder, while increasing range of motion.Physical therapy can certainly help to reduce the pain associated with adhesive capsulitis, while increasing your shoulder’s range of motion. During physical therapy, says Chelsea, “a patient with a frozen shoulder will be treated with a combination of passive stretching, joint mobilizations, and therapeutic exercise. An ultrasound may also be utilized in order to increase tissue extensibility and circulation, in order to maximize the benefit of these treatments.”

If these treatments aren’t successful, your doctor may recommend steroid injections to decrease pain and increase mobility. A doctor can also manipulate the shoulder joint while the patient is under general anesthesia in order to restore shoulder mobility when the patient is in a relaxed, pain-free state. In the worst cases, a surgeon may go into the joint to remove scar tissue. All of these treatments would most likely be followed up with physical therapy to maximize the shoulder’s range of motion.

If you’ve been having chronic shoulder pain and limited joint mobility for a long time, Chelsea recommends seeing your physical therapist for an evaluation — early treatment often leads to a shorter recovery. To search for a physical therapist near you, try our Physiquality clinic locator.

 

Chelsea Cole, PTA Chelsea Cole, PTA, is a physical therapist assistant at Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality network clinic in Clinton, Tennessee. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with her AAS as a Physical Therapist Assistant from Roane State Community College in 2012. Previously employed at a skilled nursing facility, Chelsea found her home in outpatient therapy at Clinton Physical Therapy Center.

 

Am I fit enough for an obstacle course race?

With long-distance races proliferating across the country, many people have been looking for a new fitness challenge. Enter obstacle course races like the Tough Mudder, where competitors complete military-like challenges “designed to test physical strength and mental grit.” But are they safe?

There are a variety of benefits to these challenges. “You’re not just walking or running, but also using strength, flexibility, and balance,” says Joy Winchester, a fitness instructor at the Take Charge Fitness Program, a wellness facility run by Clinton Physical Therapy Center (a Physiquality network member in Clinton, Tennessee).

Another unique aspect of these races is the teamwork emphasized by these challenges; at the Tough Mudder, for example, the race emphasizes camaraderie over individual finish times. This environment encourages fun, notes Joy, which makes it feel less like a workout. (Plus, as we’ve pointed out in the past, you’re more likely to finish a race if you’re not alone.) As the New York Times described it a few years ago, “The idea of Tough Mudder is not really to win, but to finish. And to have a story to tell.”

Setting a goal and training for an event can help you stick to your exercise regimen.And, like any race, setting a goal and training for the event can help you get back on track with your exercise regimen. But given the challenges you’re preparing for when training, side effects often include improved endurance, improved athletic performance, and weight loss.

However, both health practitioners and race organizers warn that these events are not for everyone. First, the level of these challenges are often quite advanced; obstacles listed on the Tough Mudder site include a ring of fire, a human hamster wheel, an electrically charged field and a plethora of wall climbing features. Such difficult events mean that anyone with pre-existing conditions, anything from simple knee problems to those with chronic heart and lung concerns, should probably avoid such races. Frankly, anyone considering such a race should talk to her physician or physical therapist about whether she is fit enough to complete the event.

Keep in mind as well that parts of these courses will involve mud, creating a slick running surface, and sometimes even ice, which can affect how your muscles will react to the activity. And as these courses are usually on uneven terrain, Joy advises those in training to get used to running off-road. Be particularly cautious about the water challenges; reports have surfaced from several races about drowning and other serious injuries.

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Step away from the computer!

With the evolution of technology, people are spending more time at their desks and less time moving around at the workplace. The New York Times pointed out in 2011 that “jobs requiring moderate physical activity, which accounted for 50% of the labor market in 1960, have plummeted to just 20%.” And while the New York Times story emphasized how such changes in the workplace are a big factor contributing to the obesity issues plaguing Americans, there are many more reasons we should all try to step away from our desks now and then. Read More

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While women may not want to talk about it, postpartum incontinence is a prevalent problem after giving birth. In fact, a 2002 study found that as high as 35% of all women that deliver their babies vaginally could continue to suffer from the problem three months after birth.

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