July 16, 2013

Standing On The Job: Day 1

I did end up running the Boilermaker on Sunday, and I felt great while doing it. It still seems to be the case that any sitting is painful, whereas standing/walking/running/being active seems to ease the pain a lot. Ever since I started taking Percocet, I haven’t felt the terrible spasms of pain, but my upper back muscles do keep getting really tight (especially when I start to get stressed about something). Being active seems to help get my upper back muscles to relax a little bit, way more than even stretching does.

The only other way I’ve found to relieve my muscle tension is going to my physical therapist for a massage. However, I’ve had a lot of complications trying to get in with a physical therapist in Dallas. Apparently my prescription from a New York doctor for PT won’t work here, and I need to get a prescription from a Dallas doctor in order to be treated here. As of yesterday, though, I basically thought that was never going to happen. I thought I found a doctor on Friday, but the receptionist called me yesterday and said that he wouldn’t be able to see me – and instead referred me to someone else. That someone else was a doctor I had already called, who had no availability till August! So I started the whole process of cold calling doctors all over again, spending half the time in tears because I just couldn’t believe that no one would see me for a month.

So yesterday was basically a terrible day. Sitting on the plane had severely tightened up my muscles, and once I got to work, it only got worse. I made a ton of tweaks to my set up at work – I now have six reams of printer paper hoisting my laptop to eye level, an external keyboard hooked up so that I can still type, and two reams of paper on my chair to bring it up to a height where my shoulders aren’t up to my ears trying to reach the keyboard. However, after sitting at my desk for the morning, I realized that 3.5 hours on a plane followed by 3.5 hours at a desk just wasn’t cutting it. After taking a walk break at lunch, I headed out to the hallway where I could stand at one of the tall collaboration tables instead of sitting for the rest of the day. Standing felt so much better, and while I was still feeling the tension of the morning, I knew that standing to work was definitely going to be the better solution going forward.

Standing Desk and Window
My new desk! Bonus: an actual window (rare in consulting), and it has a pretty view of the Dallas skyline!

But today, I’ve been standing for the last 3 hours, and my lower back is shot. Not that my lower back is injured, but standing puts a lot of pressure on your lumbar spine, and I’m not used to standing for that long! Advice for using a standing desk is generally to work up to using it all day and build up to using it for long stretches of time, but I’m just going whole hog right away. I think I need to get on a schedule of something like standing for an hour and then sitting for 15 minutes (which seems to be about my limit for sitting before my neck starts hurting), but haven’t quite figured out the right ratio yet.

On the plus side, I discovered through this calculator that sitting burns about 30 calories more per hour than standing for my body weight – so if I do it all day, that certainly compensates for not working out. It definitely doesn’t give me the same benefits as far as getting my heart rate up or loosening up my back muscles, but some quick research found that it does a lot of other things as well.

A great article from Harvard Business Review noted that standing helps prevent blood clots/ deep vein thrombosis, strengthens leg muscles, and improves balance. Furthermore, studies have shown that sitting more than six hours per day dramatically increases risk of death due to cardiovascular disease. The New York Times has also run not just one but several articles, including Is Sitting a Lethal Activity and Stand Up While You Read This, to  firmly convince you that standing is the way to go.

I was most intrigued, though, by learning that many high achievers from the past few centuries were known to use standing desks – Ben Franklin, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Jefferson, and my favorite, Leonardo DaVinci. My physical therapist has me doing a stretch that he calls “The Leonardo Davinci” (because of how it mimics the Vitruvian Man), so knowing that he was a “stander” is obviously even more reason to do it 😉

From a personal perspective, I really liked this article, which told the advantages and disadvantages of a standing desk “like it is.” I’m also very intrigued by the advice to get an anti-fatigue mat, or at the very least, to wear shoes with better cushioning. I’m currently just wearing some ballet flats that don’t have any support – need to think about whether I could get away with wearing sneakers, or at the very least, maybe some Aerosoles or Naturalizers or something. I also really liked Gina Tripani’s perspective, particularly where she mentioned that her feet seemed to have adjusted by day 4 or so. That means if I can make it to Friday, it should be a red letter day – reduced pain from standing, and I’ll get to go to both an orthopedic doctor that I finally found plus a physical therapist.

Till then, I’m just crossing my fingers that this helps…


9 thoughts on “Standing On The Job: Day 1”

  1. How interesting about the high achievers!

    I was going to give you my chiropractor’s information if you wanted to go that route here in Dallas- he is a runner- but I guess you are all squared away with your doc and pt now. Friday is just around the corner!

    1. Aww thanks, Kim! If it ends up not working out with them (or if I need a chiropractor as well), I may email you for more info!

  2. An option to try when standing is to have a small box on the floor (about 6-8 inches). Alternate which foot is on the step while being aware of erect posture (think of a string attached from your head to the ceiling) and think of engaging the core (bellybutton to spine-gentle contraction). You can alternate about every 5-15 minutes, or whatever schedule works best. Be careful that the leg you are standing on that you keep your knee soft (don’t lock your knee back). Hope this helps and good luck!

    1. Ooh I really like that idea – thanks, April! I also liked Cranky Fitness’ idea of setting up a balance board, but this seems easier to implement in the office.

  3. I’ve had very good luck using zocdoc.com to find last-minute appointments. Although I would recommend calling to confirm any appointments you make through the website, especially if they’re same-day, it does save some calling around to unavailable doctors…

    1. That was how I found my NYC doctor! Unfortunately, it seems like there aren’t many docs in Dallas that use it 🙁

  4. I sit all day at my desk in my office. I have to constantly get up and walk around. I try and do stretches every time I do. I thought about a standing desk but my bosses weren’t too keen on the idea.

    I hope that the ortho and PT help! Fingers crossed!

    1. As you can prob tell from the photo, mine isn’t so much a standing desk as it is me commandeering one of the tables that’s meant for group discussions 😉

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