I have always been specialized in the treatment of overuse disorders (which used to be called RSI as repetitive strain injury, CTD as cumulative trauma disorders, etc.). As I teach you to make a healthy use of your body in your daily activities, my job is to help you stop "putting oil on the fire": your pain is fueled by the misuse of your joints and muscles, 24/7 (this is what I call posture: a dynamic concept, not a static one).
Conversely, I have tended to avoid treating patients who had had an accident. In an accident, the causes are gone: therefore, symptomatic treatment will be enough. Your physiotherapist is in a much better position to help you than I am.
However, I have been called several times recently to join multidisciplinary teams to help treating complex cases. One of my latest patients had for example fallen from his roof a year ago, and still had terrible neck pain despite seeing an ergotherapist, an osteopath and a chiropractor. A month after we started the treatment, he was starting to feel better. We're now 3 months down the line and pain has virtually disappeared.
I have many more stories like this one. All illustrate the fact that complex treatments are like a chemical reaction: if one element is missing, nothing (or not much) happens but if all are there, recovery can happen very quickly.
Therefore, if you suffer chronic pain and you feel that things are not moving the way they should, you should consider posture therapy as a complement. The potential benefits are huge, whilst the side effects are virtually none.
Homeworking ergonomics has brought a lot of media attention to Plein le Dos, my posture manual in French. This time, two of the recently published articles have been translated in English. Click on the images below to read them.
Many of you have to stay at home due to the coronavirus spreading worldwide. One of the challenges will be to protect your musculoskeletal health while working at home, where the working conditions are usually not as good as at work. You will find detailed advice to adjust your workstation and improve your posture on the free summary of my course on screen work ergonomics.
Below are pictures of the homeworking desk that I made for my wife, inside her Ikea closet. A ruler with double-sided tape blocks the laptop from sliding. If you do not have a proper office chair, you may consider using a lumbar support on a kitchen chair with a backrest.
A good sitting posture is essential, but you also need to monitor your daily screen time. Below are my recommendations for you and your children: if your child is 12 years old, she may spend daily up to 2hrs on a desktop OR up to 40 min on a laptop OR up to 20 min on a smartpohone. In other words, the green line indicates your "daily credit". Each minute on the desktop costs you 1, each one on the laptop costs you 3 and each one of the smartphone costs you 6...
Frequent breaks are also need, as shown below. The logic is the same: the smaller the screen, the younger the user, the more frequent breaks need to be.
Last but not least, you need to remain physically active! The two exercises below will help you preserve your musculoskeletal health: practice often, but slowly and always within your comfort zone. Simple cardio activities for home include the exercise bike that you once bought (and since then left in your basement), a jump rope for a few minutes several times a day, to jog on the spot, etc.
Video consultations are available for all those who want personal advice, wherever you live: feel free to contact me.
Vacuuming, cleaning under furniture, carrying: these are all activities in which many of you hurt yourself at home. Imagine what it is like for those whose job it is!
To better help them, Olivier Girard is partnering in Switzerland with Batmaid, a start-up company dedicated to improving the working conditions of home-based cleaning women. On June 26, we hosted a workshop at a cocktail reception at the Batmaids of Lausanne; we repeat the exercise in Geneva on July 4th. To join us, check with Batmaid.
TRAIN YOUR POSTURE's method is uniquely global: I teach you how to preserve and heal your body by improving your posture and ergonomics at work as well as at work (Erg'OH Conseil is the brand for companies).
For even more empowerment, I have written a posture manual for everybody and every day. Very illustrated and didactic, it describes a posture training road-map over 3 months. Each week, a daily goal and an exercise are suggested so that all themes of your daily life are discussed: how to sit, stand, walk, lift, carry, relax, sleep, breathe, choose ergonomic furniture, etc.
Whilst the publication in English is still pending, the book is now available in French. If you are interested in publising the English version, please contact me.
Gym balls (so-called Swiss Ball) are in fashion, but are they healthy to sit at work and at home? Let's go back to the basics...
A healthy sitting posture revolves around a stable pelvis. The first posture below (on the sit bones or ischial bones, and against the lumbar support) is the healthiest to sit for prolonged periods of time. Conversely,
What happens when sitting on a gym ball? Firstly, the flexible and round shape of the seat create pelvic instability. Hence, the spine is also unstable. Secondly, the lack of lumbar support makes that your pelvis is free to rotate backwards, i.e. your spine tends to slouch unless you mobilize your muscles: your weight remains on your tissues instead of being transferred onto the chair. If you try and "sit straight", you will hollow your back, sometimes helped by keeping your feet back.
how to sit on a swiss ball?
To sit well on a gym ball, you should have your heels under the knees and sit with a flat back, i.e. on your sit bones. As when you sit on an office chair, your torso should be slightly forward.
To hold the pelvis in this neutral posture, you should engage the lower transverse abs (under the navel): if you bring them slightly inwards, you increase the pressure around the lower spine, which stabilizes it. This muscle effort explains why you can't sit for too long on a gym ball.
To make your job easier, the ball pushes your feet and knee outwards. As a result, the femur bones tighten the sacro-illiac joint, and therefore participate in stabilizing the pelvis. This posture is particularly advised for pregnant women to compensate for the softening of the ligaments that occurs after 3 months. However, nothing prevents you from assuming the same posture on a standard office chair...
Some advocate in favor of the gym ball because it allows for a "dynamic sitting posture". Of course, you need to move, but not anyhow and anytime! A well adjusted office seat does not make you a rigid statue; rather, it allows for micro-movement which supplies oxygen to the deep muscles whilst distributing your weight on the tissues. After 25-30 min, it is indeed time to decompress the lumbar spine, but the best solution is to stand up and consequently adapt the task: make it a habit to stand for informal chats and phone calls, and you will move whilst always keeping a posture that is adapted to your activity.
a swiss ball for all?
A gym ball is therefore a training tool... but nobody should train 8hr per day, a certainly not while focusing on something else (esp. work!). The gym ball is therefore meant
Hence, I do not recommend that companies invest in Swiss balls as an alternative to ergonomic office chairs that are individually adjusted. As a private person, you may however want to give it a try, provided that you remain within the above-described framework.
Personally, I prefer however to invest in things only when I am in full control of what Mother Nature gave me, i.e. my muscles and gravity. These two are always available, and mastering them makes me free: my health does not need to depend on anything but me.
For more information on office ergonomics, DSE and homeworking, visit the course summary on Erg'OH Conseil website.
The cartoon below reminds be both of my job as an ergonomist and of my job as a posture therapist.
The ergonomist works mainly with companies (B2B). For many of them, improving working conditions takes time and energy. However, in thinking so they forget future gains in terms of productiviy, quality, motivation, lower absenteeism, etc.
The posture therapist works more with private people (B2C). He also meets many who believe that they lack the time (or the energy, or both) to think about the new behaviours that they need to repeat in order to anchor new habits. In doing so, they also ignore future gains in health, quality of life, performance (e.g., in sports), and even energy and immunity as several clients of ours reported.
Hence, yes: we always have other priorities than to correct an unhealthy state of things, which violates the laws of physics and anatomy. But do we really have a choice when we are not the ones who set the rules?
A recurring question usually comes when I train office workers: what is the right distance to the desk when sitting? The picture below illustrates 3 situations that I will comment below: at the right distance, a bit too close, much too close.
On this website as well as on our Facebook page, I tend to post more scientific than opinion papers. However, an article named How the Back Pain Industry is Taking Patients for a Dangerous Ride has come to my attention this week, and it is worth sharing it. The authors Danielle Venton and Jon Brooks make there a few important points:
A strict adherence to our "hands off paradigm" is key to being able to provide distance treatment for postural disorders.
"Text neck" is an umbrella concept to describe the neck (and head) symptoms of those spending too much time on their smartphone (typically to write text messages). The March 2017 issue of the Spine Journal rings the alarm bell: practitionners notice an increase in the prevalence of the issue.
We absolutely agree on the fact that mobile screen devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) are a health hazard. Our main and most effective recommendation is therefore to limit their usage time. One way to do so is to call rather than to text, another one is to send vocal messages (e.g., via Whatsapp) rather than to type. Teenagers need particular attention from adults in this respect.
Once this is done, it is indeed true that raising the phone helps avoiding a forward head posture. However, holding the phone at eye level may also create strain in the neck and shoulders area. Hence, placing the phone on an elevated surface (e.g., shelf), inclined if possible, is surely a healthier option.
Finally, a good body awareness will help you keeping the neck aligned: make sure that your thoracic spine is not rounded, that your shoulders are not pushed forward, and that you keep your chin drawn slightly inwards. It will also help you slowing down when your body tells you it has enough...
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