Today’s post will go in a different direction than you may be used to. There will be no talk of splitting med balls in half, slamming chains on your skull, or even leg pressing the Smith machine bar (saw this more than once at the gym, don’t ask). Today’s post isn’t cool, it isn’t sexy, and quite frankly compared to some of the other content on this site, it’s like bringing a pool noodle to a gunfight.
That being said, what I am going to discuss today could arguably be considered the MOST IMPORTANT ADVICE any trainer or therapist could give to a client.
You may ask why? In short, I really believe that what our client does the other 23 hours of the day when they are not in our facility may be the most important. Furthermore, this philosophy can not only be applied to getting a client out of pain and keeping them there, but also to any goal a Strength and Conditioning coach may have with a client. I mean let’s be serious. How many of you S and C coaches out there have been working with a client for months on end, given them the program of programs, only to have that client come to you one day and say, “Um, I’m not sure if your training is working because I have actually gotten fatter since I started here.” Upon questioning their diet, they say, “I have been eating healthy, I only cheat on weekends when I watch football. I usually eat 6 pieces of pizza on Saturday and 2 dozen wings on Sunday. But the rest of the week, I’m good.”
Yes, it’s the program that is the problem.
Ok, back to my point. If a person is in pain, Dr. Karel Lewit would say, “The first treatment is to teach the patient to avoid what harms them.” It sounds easy, but in reality this is a challenge. It is a different type of challenge than you might face when trying to teach a client an Olympic lift. With the Olympic lift, you will work with the client while they are in the gym with you, then they probably will not have to do it again until the next training session. As a therapist, teaching somebody proper posture or how to get out of bed correctly is something that we can teach in the office, hoping they take the skills home with them. The hard part with this is making it a habit for a patient. Trying to teach a 55 year old how to sit after they have been sitting a certain way for like, ummm, close to 55 years can be a challenge. Mostly, it comes back to making the patient aware of this and helping them to spare the tissue by eliminating movements or postures that will harm them.
Right now I am coming down the home stretch of my chiropractic education, and I have had the opportunity to treat students and some of the local colleges in the area. Ninety-five percent of these students come in to the clinic with the same complaint. We call it ‘student syndrome.’ Once they graduate and get a real job, they will most likely become desk jockeys (yet still have the same complaint).
Usually, these students sit in class 4-6 hours a day, get some exercise by walking to the cafeteria and eating, then retreat to their dorm for a night full of studying (facebook), reading (facebook), facebooking, and facebooking. All in all, these students do nothing but sit, sit, and then sit some more.
Hmm, I wonder why your upper traps and neck are sore and tight?
This is a classic example of a repetitive trauma/poor posture/ for the love of Pete, take a break from the computer for a minute, syndrome.
And, if you think what I am saying is a load of garbage, you may listen to the good folks at Apple, right? I happened to be perusing my iPhone manual the other day and randomly came across this, “ Repetitive Motion: When you perform repetitive activities such as typing or playing games on iPhone, you may experience occasional discomfort in your hands, arms, shoulders, neck, or other parts of your body. Take frequent breaks and if you have discomfort during of after such use, stop use and see physician.”
I mean if Apple says it, then it must be true. Isn’t that how it works?…
So, what does Apple say? TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS!!!!
Dr. Craig Liebenson calls these ‘Microbreaks.’ Microbreaks dissipate pressures that build on the soft tissues and can eventually lead to failure. As Dr. Stuart McGill would say, “ a back injury is usually a result of a history of excessive loading which gradually, but progressively, reduces the tissue failure tolerance.” To put it simply, most back injuries (or any injury) are a product of years and years of overload to a tissue. We all know someone who has said, “I didn’t do anything. I bent over to pick up my toothbrush and now I cannot even walk.” Eventually, this tissue just cannot handle the load being placed on it, and it fails.
Let’s get to these Microbreak strategies. Ideally, these exercises should be performed after 20 minutes of sitting to break that repetitive strain cycle that poor posture is causing. Check ‘em out:
- Brugger’s Relief Position:
Tips: 1) Supinate the Forearms and spread the fingers
2) Drop shoulders down
3) Retract the chin
4) Breath through your belly (Dr. Liebenson says you should blow breaths out as if you are making a candle flicker)
- McGill’s Overhead Arm Reach
Tips: 1) Raise Arms Overhead
2) Retract chin
3) Breathe in (through your belly) and raise arms higher like you are climbing a ladder, trying to stretch to the ceiling
If a patient cannot not remember the specifics of each exercise I tell them, “Whatever you have been doing, just do the opposite.” This seems to make sense to them. They realize if they have been sitting, they need to stand. If they are hunched over, they need to extend back etc..
So there you have it. Part 2 of my ongoing, life changing series, “Movement and Dysfucntion.” Look out for Part 3, coming to you soon.
Thanks for reading!