Physical therapy is a repetitive job, not only because of the paperwork, dealing with insurance companies, or the constant stress of meeting productivity. But it is also repetitive because we see the same patients over and over again. I don’t mean that the same few people keep coming in but rather that every new person who comes in brings with them some bad habits that we’ve seen over and over again. Whether it is neck pain, back pain, knee pain, or whatever pain you can think of, here are the two most common dangerous patterns I see in my patients.
1. Being a weekend warrior
You’ve got an office job, but you can’t stop reliving the glory days of being a young athlete. Though you sit at the desk 8 hours a day, your real passion is climbing mountains or jackin’ up 3’s like ya boy Steph. But unlike professional athletes, your body is stronger and more durable, so you don’t warm-up or cool down. You don’t need to stretch or stay active daily in order to hit homers every Wednesday night at your adult softball league.
In reality, your body is primed to sit at a desk. It is ready to place your shoulders and neck too far forward and out of alignment. It’s ready to lean back on your backrest that has great “lumbar support” and respond to e-mails. You’re not standing, but sitting is your forte: hips and knees at 90 degrees. That’s the anthem of your aging body, but you refuse to allow the 9 to 5 ruin your prime of life.
When the body is not ready to do an activity that requires high physical demand, it will begin to break down. Usually, the injury will occur in the part of the body that is most susceptible either from a past injury or has weakened due to poor movement mechanics. The knees, back, shoulder, and neck are very commonly victims of bodies that are unprepared to handle physical stress during sports or other weekend activities. Just like a chain, the body breaks at its weakest link.
2. Sleeping with only one pillow
With one pillow, it’s impossible to sleep with your body completely relaxed unless someone were to make a mold of your body and make a mattress in your unique shape. Even then, you wouldn’t be able to turn onto your side or allow anyone else to sleep with you. When you sleep with one pillow (usually one that’s made of terrible cotton or memory foam), I guarantee that you’ve woken up with a stiff neck, a sore back, or your hand still asleep. With a normal person flat mattress, it’s just too difficult to keep your spine neutral, which is the goal of sleeping posture.
Think about it like this. Most people are sleeping about 7 hours a night, which means that whatever shape you are in for 7 hours is the shape that your body will slowly become accustomed to. If you are side sleeping with one pillow, your hips will be in adduction all night.
*adduction occurs when a bone moves towards the midline of the body; in the case of hip adduction, the femur is moving towards the midline, and the knees will touch.
When you go to stand in the morning, the abductor muscles like your gluteus medius have been slightly stretched all night and are no longer as strong as they were the night before. Were you really born with knock knees or have you been sleeping on your side without a pillow in between your legs?
But I have great news for all of you. These two things are easily remedied! With the right basic exercise program and some basic posture training for your desk and sleeping, you might just be able to avoid seeing a physical therapist like me!
Make sure you are prepping your body before a long hike or a soccer game with your buddies. Warming up and cooling down are essential to a good workout. Also, take a look at your office set up. Are you really sitting with good posture? When you go to bed at night, think about your posture and if that is really the position you want to morph your body into slowly. Just taking the time to think about our compensations and what we are doing to our bodies is a huge step in the right direction. The first step to a healthier body is having enough awareness of what might be negatively impacting you.