MAXIMIZING WORK STATION COMFORT

Do you have a job that requires you to sit for the majority of the day? Do you find yourself having aches and pains in your neck and back? If so, you may want to read on to find a few simple exercises to interject during your workday to combat the negative effects of prolonged sitting. As the day wears on, especially if you do not take enough rest breaks, gravity will cause you to slump down and acquire a rounded shoulder, forward head posture. This is especially true during computer use. Additionally, you will also want to make sure your work station is optimally set up to decrease the risk of eye and neck strain. A few pointers for proper posture at your desk include the following

  • When sitting, make sure your hips are slightly higher than your knees so your thigh is on a “down slope,” with your feet flat on the floor. This will help keep you in an upright position with the least amount of demand on your postural muscles. Your elbows should be supported by the arm rests and should not push your shoulders into a “shrugged” position.
  • Your upper arms should rest at your sides and elbows bent. You should be able to reach your keyboard in this position without reaching your arms much farther forward.
  • Everything you use often should be in your “frequent reach zone,” which is defined as the space you can reach in front and to the side, with your arms resting at your sides. Things used less frequently should be placed in your “occasional reach zone” which can be defined as an arm’s length in front or to the side which can be reached without requiring any additional bending or leaning.
  • While OSHA recommends the monitor be about an arm’s length away, we recommend placing your monitor as close as possible to improve ease of viewing and decreasing eye strain. Think of it as a similar distance to that you would hold a book or newspaper from your eyes. The top of your monitor should be placed slightly below eye level so it promotes a slightly downward gaze. If you are using a laptop, you will never be able to achieve an ideal ergonomic situation without utilizing either an external keyboard or monitor.

A few exercises you may want to try during the day:

A few exercises you may want to try during the day:

  • Shoulder Roll: up, back, down 5 x every hour
  • Neck rotation: turn your head side to side, 3 times each side, every hour
  • Seated hip hinge: scoot to the edge of your chair and place your hands on your knees. Keep your back very straight, and hinge forward from the hips. Hold 1 second, do 5 times every hour.
  • Try to get up and walk around every hour, even for a short walk to get some water or use the restroom.

2 times a day (this should take you 3.5 minutes)

  • Chin tucks: sitting up tall, gently tuck your chin about 5 degrees, hold 5 seconds, do 5 reps 2 times during your work day.
  • Wrist extensor stretch: With your R arm out in front of you, palp down, wrist bent, apply over pressure with left hand until a stretch is felt in the back of the R forearm Hold 30 seconds, do 1 times each side 2 x during your work day
  • Wrist flexor stretch: with your R arm out in front of you, palm down, bend your wrist up and apply over pressure to your fingers with your left hand until a stretch is felt in the front of your forearm do 1 time each side 2 x during your work day.
  • Seated figure 4 piriformis stretch: scoot to the edge of your chair and place your right leg over your left so to form a “figure 4.” Keep your back straight as in the previous exercise, and lean forward until you feel a stretch in your R buttock. Hold 30 seconds, do 1 time each side, 2 times during your work day.

LOW BACK PAIN BEYOND the STRUCTURE BASED DIAGNOSIS

According to statistics, Low Back Pain has a lifetime prevalence of 65% to 80% . With a prevalence so high, there is a good chance you will experience low back pain at some point in your life. Perhaps you have in the past, or you have some low back pain right now. When it comes to the proper treatment, how do you know what is right for you? Chances are, you’ve probably seen a physician, possibly received some medications, maybe even an x ray and MRI, and perhaps your physician has recommended you try a course of Physical Therapy. At North Jersey Physical Therapy, we have a unique approach to the treatment of your low back pain.

According to statistics, Low Back Pain has a lifetime prevalence of 65% to 80% . With a prevalence so high, there is a good chance you will experience low back pain at some point in your life. Perhaps you have in the past, or you have some low back pain right now. When it comes to the proper treatment, how do you know what is right for you? Chances are, you’ve probably seen a physician, possibly received some medications, maybe even an x ray and MRI, and perhaps your physician has recommended you try a course of Physical Therapy. At North Jersey Physical Therapy, we have a unique approach to the treatment of your low back pain.

Now that it is understood that your MRI findings might not even be showing the true root cause of your pain, you may be asking yourself, what is causing my low back pain? At North Jersey Physical Therapy we look at how your body moves, we look for compensatory patterns that may have become long term strategies due to muscle inhibition elsewhere, leading to wear and tear in certain areas which eventually leads to pain. Often, the site of the pain is not the same as the cause of the pain. For example, your pain may be in your low back, but the reason it hurts at that segment is because your body is moving too much from that same segment because something else isn’t moving well enough, or certain muscles have become inhibited, or you are overusing muscles that aren’t designed to be used in such a way. You are beating up that one section of your back because something, somewhere else, isn’t doing its job.

Now that it is understood that your MRI findings might not even be showing the true root cause of your pain, you may be asking yourself, what is causing my low back pain? At North Jersey Physical Therapy we look at how your body moves, we look for compensatory patterns that may have become long term strategies due to muscle inhibition elsewhere, leading to wear and tear in certain areas which eventually leads to pain. Often, the site of the pain is not the same as the cause of the pain. For example, your pain may be in your low back, but the reason it hurts at that segment is because your body is moving too much from that same segment because something else isn’t moving well enough, or certain muscles have become inhibited, or you are overusing muscles that aren’t designed to be used in such a way. You are beating up that one section of your back because something, somewhere else, isn’t doing its job.

The physical therapists at North Jersey Physical Therapy will give you a comprehensive initial evaluation, go over their findings and share with you their physical therapy diagnosis, assessment, and treatment plan to address the root cause of your low back pain. They will design a home program to reinforce new movement strategies that will help improve carryover between treatment sessions and promote progress. Call today to improve the way you move!


1 Laxmaiah Manchikanti, MD  “Epidemiology of Low Back Pain” ;Pain Physician Vol. 3, No. 2, 2000

2 Boden SD et al.  “Abnoral magnetic resonance scans of the lumbar spine in asymptomatic subjects.  A prospective investigation.” J Bone Joint Surg. Am.  1990 Mar; 72(3):403-8.

Pain and Injury from Improper Breathing

By John Vicchio, PT, CCTT

Breathing is unquestionably a key function of the human body. It sustains life by providing oxygen needed for metabolism and removing the by-product of these reactions, carbon dioxide. Breathing has other functions that affect motor control, postural stability and roles in maintaining homeostasis function (maintain internal stability such as balance and equilibrium) in the autonomic nervous system and circulatory system. When breathing becomes dysfunctional it affects people’s lives, challenging homeostasis, creating symptoms that most patients do not associate with their pain and compromising health.

The primary muscles of breathing are the diaphragm, intercostals (muscles running between the ribs) and abdominals, which allow the average person to take over 21,000 breaths per day. These muscles are located in the chest wall compromised of the rib cage/thorax and the abdomen, creating an effective respiratory pump. The respiratory pump can become dysfunctional due to many factors, which are altered and paradoxical motion between rib cage and abdomen called paradoxical breathing, thus increasing use of upper body muscles such as the scalenes, upper trapezius and sternocleidomastoids. Abdominal weakness and rib cage stiffness are common dysfunctions that we see at North Jersey Physical Therapy Associates (NJPTA).

At our clinic we evaluate and treat on how breathing affects postural stability and motor control. Muscles such as the diaphragm, transverse abdominals and pelvic floor muscles are important for motor control and postural support as well as for breathing. If their function is compromised there is an increased susceptibility to low back pain and injury.

At NJPTA, we take a unique approach in treatment, which includes an extensive assessment and treatment using manual therapy interventions, neuromuscular exercises (90/90 Diaphragm breathing, Buteyko breathing) and dry needling. These are all helpful tools in restoring and maintaining motor control/postural stability.

Below is an illustration of optimal breathing from Integrative Core Dynamics:

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