Standing Desk Converter (SDC) got an opportunity to interview a seasoned Doctor of Chiropractic, Dr. Carlos Rodriguez of Prodigy Chiro-Care.
A graduate of the California State University, Dr. Rodriguez has over 15 years of experience serving the Santa Monica area and helping families and sports practitioners to treat and recover for all kinds of sports related injuries and pain issues. At Prodigy Chiro Care & Spinal Rehab, Dr. Rodriguez and his team are trying to provide patients with an alternative to sometimes unnecessary medical surgical interventions for their back and lower pain issues.
We discussed a few back pain related problems as well as the benefits of having the right posture while at work.
SDC: These questions are related to back pain. Doctor Carlos, what happens to your lower back when you sit for long periods of time?
DOCTOR: It all depends on how much you sit. Most of the time, when there is too much sitting, it tends to weaken the core. People have an overall tendency not to sit correctly. In general, they like to sit in two ways: either slumped or not using the chair correctly and in a forward position, which then causes you to slump anyway.
SDC: Are headaches associated with lower back pain issues?
DOCTOR: That’s a good question. Headaches are sometimes associated with lower back pain. This generally occurs when people are holding their stress or their posture in the upper part of what’s called the trapezius, which is the muscle located right below the neck line. By having a forward posture, you are encouraging your body to go into a C-shape posture, which causes the shoulders to go around it, and then you lead with the head. In doing so, you can actually constrict the artery that allows blood to flow to the head, leading to tension headaches.
Our bodies are dictated by our lower backs, which means that if we don’t maintain that curve, called a lower dotted curve, we will make our bodies stay in this forward head posture. This then puts a lot of strain on your back, due to the fact that the weight is being distributed unevenly.
SDC: What kind of treatment can you provide to overcome lower back pain?
DOCTOR: Treatments to overcome lower back pain depend on a combination of things. I am looking at whether this is an acute or chronic condition and at how long it has been since the pain started. These factors all play a big role in what protocol we actually use when helping the patient out. As far as overcoming the pain, we would most likely start with the same thing, do a proper assessment as far as what needs to happen, give the patient a series of home exercises. There is another important factor in treatment and prevention: the job they do and their position during work plays a big role as far as affecting the patients’ back. So, depending on if your job is physical or if you have a sitting down job like most people do, the exercises and treatment alternatives will vary. Breaking the routine does play a big role, so going from a seated to a standing position, obviously will help a lower back condition.
Lower back pain treatments are largely depending on the condition we need to treat. We may be dealing with the severity of a disbulge, with herniation, proliferation, prolapse. Depending on whatever it is, we treat according to protocol. So, someone who comes in with an acute condition they have not had in the past, will usually get treated very conservatively with chiropractics, and that usually involves manual adjustments. For a more complex version, like spinal decompression, we concentrate on the disc to distract it out, depending on the size of the herniation.
SDC: What is work trauma?
DOCTOR: Work trauma can be any kind of trauma resulting from physical activity at work, or anything that’s a chronic condition, due to repetitive use of certain postures. And that can include sitting for prolonged periods of time, not taking regular breaks and not sitting correctly. Ergonomics does play a big role. Everyone spends a lot of money on trying to get the proper chairs and sitting on Swiss balls to try to regain some of that core. A lot of these issues can be corrected by just going from a sitting to a standing position and still maintaining your workload.
SDC: How do people develop the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
DOCTOR: The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is basically a wrist condition or actually a nerve condition and it is caused by hyper extension of the wrist, from repeated actions, such as using the mouse or keeping your hands in an improper position while working on the keyboard. It develops into an irritation of the ulnar nerve. And that will usually cause severe discomfort when you bring the hand into either an extension or flexible movement. On the long run, this condition causes an inability to actually be able to do a gripping motion.
SDC: Are there any ways to prevent the onset of a Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
DOCTOR: Ergonomics once again, does play a big role in preventing the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This is usually alleviated by exercises based on stretching out the hands.
The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be prevented by decreasing that repetitive movement that you do over and over. You can use wrist guards and braces but a lot has to do with stretching the wrist out completely. If you don’t take care of it, the condition does get worse and if you allow it to get worse, it does lead to surgery.
SDC: Can you explain what sciatica is?
DOCTOR: The sciatic nerve is the largest and widest single nerve in the human body, running from the lower back through the buttock and down the lower limb. Sciatica is an irritation of the sciatic nerve. It’s usually associated with a muscle in the body below the glute muscle, which is called the piriformis. If that goes into any type of spasm, it creates a burning pain sensation. It compresses the nerve. And that’s usually associated, once again, with improper sitting or sitting for too long. People with severe sciatica can’t bring their body into any seated position, they have to maintain their leg straight, so they can reduce the irritation. If sciatica is not taken care of professionally, you will damage the nerve. And if sciatica is not tended to, it can eventually lead to some type of surgery.
SDC: What is decompression therapy and how does it help your lower back?
DOCTOR: There are many different types of decompression mechanisms. For example, we use the hill table here at the office. Decompression is an automated pneumatic system that goes around the waist and around the ankles. It’s a computerized system that can actually pull the lower back, depending on the area that we need to move. Since the lumbar spine is made up of five areas, those are usually labelled, L1, L2, L3, L4 and L5. If L5 and S1 are the most common areas, depending on the size of the disc herniation, we will set the computer up on this table and it will actually distract the back out. So, it basically creates space in between the vertebrae, inducing a vacuum sensation, allowing for some of the disc to come back into play and not allowing it to further compress the cord or a nerve that is most likely irritating.
SDC: How long should you do spinal decompression for?
DOCTOR: Spinal decompression treatments depend on the severity of the issue to address. Not everybody qualifies for spinal decompression. The majority of people that we found can usually benefit the most fare people with any type of disbulge or disc herniation. It does vary according to the size and the symptoms the patient is displaying. Spinal decompression most likely can run anywhere between three to five times a week for anywhere between one month, all the way to six months.
SDC: What are three good ways to improve your posture?
DOCTOR: Strengthening the core is a good way to improve the posture. Proper ergonomics as far as it maintains a good strong posture. Last but not least, getting up from a seated position strengthens the posture, because it activates the core.
SDC: What are some of the long term effects of sitting all day?
DOCTOR: Sitting all day, depending on how many years you’ve done it, is considered repetitive trauma. Most people that have been in a prolonged sitting posture for more than ten years will most likely end up with degeneration of the lower back. The most common area is the L5 S1, which makes up the lower part of the spine. When you sit, you actually lose that curvature in the back. It ends up being what’s called hyperlordosis, a decrease in the curvature, which then stresses out the bodies of the lumbar spine, leading to osteoarthritis.
SDC: How much time should you sit in a day?
DOCTOR: Once again, if we’re sitting for prolonged periods of time, my recommendation that a person who is suffering from lower back condition is to find ways to sit up and stretch. I tell people to purposely set their iPhones and androids to go off every hour or an hour and a half. They can just stand up and do a two to five-minute stretching exercise. This will help alleviate lower back discomfort, plus it breaks routine and it will help you concentrate more on what you need to finish.
SDC: Does sitting also affect your energy levels?
DOCTOR: Depending on what the job is, sitting for prolonged periods of time will actually decrease your energy, due to the fact of trying to maintain a certain posture. Affecting the bio mechanics of the body causes you to get tired, which will then cause secondary muscles to have to fire off. The majority of our posture comes from the lower back. So, when we have too much stress going on, we will sit in a slump position, which will then cause the secondary muscles, which aren’t made for prolonged periods, to over- acclimate and work more than they need to in the upper part of the back which is called the trapezius.
SDC: What are the benefits of owning a standing desk?
DOCTOR: Standing desks have actually come a long way. Going from a seated to a standing position will definitely break up the routine. G. It will also activate your core muscles, which allows a better distribution in body weight in the body. This will decrease the chances of stressing the body out and losing that important curve that we have.
SDC: How will owning a standing desk improve your lower back issue?
DOCTOR: By owning a standing desk, basically, you break the routine of chronically having to sit all day. Once again, it will activate your core muscles. This will definitely improve the general posture, especially for people who possibly have sciatica. People with sciatica will actually respond better when the weight is not being distributed on their glutes and causing that irritation that they may feel.
SDC: How much standing should you do versus sitting throughout the day?
DOCTOR: That’s a great question. I think it really does vary on the person. I think if you break the routine down, and if you were going to look at everything into say thirds. A third time would be great in sitting and breaking up the remaining time- the two thirds- into standing, would actually be very beneficial.
SDC: How does standing improve your posture?
DOCTOR: By properly standing and distributing your weight, you are allowing the whole body to work as one. This way you’re not shifting from left to right, while at the same time being able to maintain your work capacity and workload.
SDC: Does standing improve your productivity levels?
DOCTOR: Yes, it does.