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back pain & computers = silicon valley

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Tilt the top of your pelvis forward, roll your shoulders back, elongate your spine and straighten your craned neck.

Or just get a standing desk.

Esther Gokhale is a posture guru in Silicon Valley. She believes that people suffer from pain and dysfunction because they have forgotten how to use their bodies. It’s not the act of sitting for long periods that causes us pain, she says, it’s the way we position ourselves.


The expenses are huge as well. By one estimate that appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association, the national cost of treating people with back and neck pain was $86 billion in 2005. And with back pain one of the top reasons for worker disability, missed work because of these aches may cost employers close to $7 billion a year, according to one study.

For the majority of people with back pain, the aches are short-lived and relief comes with rest and time, according to Dr. Deyo. But methods to help those with chronic pain are diverse. Using a standing desk at work has become a popular way to ease discomfort. Exercise, yoga, acupuncture and chiropractic have also been shown to reduce pain. Medical treatments like surgery and steroids continue to be important options, doctors say, even amid concerns that these have been overused.

Dr. Haleh Agdassi, a rehabilitation doctor with the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in California, sees back and neck pain so frequently among heavy users of computers that she calls it the “Silicon Valley syndrome.” She encourages clients to try a mix of nonsurgical strategies, but finds it frustrating that treatments for such a common problem are only modestly effective.

“There’s no magic bullet out there for back pain,” she says. “That can be overwhelming for patients. It’s an anxious, vulnerable crowd — they’re looking for solutions.”

Good posture takes practice:

IN Ms. Gokhale’s courses, offered in her Palo Alto, Calif., studio and in cities across the country, students relearn how to sit, stand, sleep and walk. While some clients take private classes, many enroll in group workshops with eight to 10 people who meet for six 90-minute sessions. While the students are often strangers, the classes are casual and intimate: most clients wear yoga clothes or sweat pants, and they giggle awkwardly as Ms. Gokhale adjusts their bodies.

Ms. Gokhale says that most Americans tend to be relaxed and slumped (think of a C-shaped spine), or arched up and tense (an S shape), the stand-up-straight style of posture that some parents demand of their children. She helps her students return their bodies to the stance that she says nature intended: upright and relaxed (a tall J spine).

Good chairs help a lot too..

You could spring for one of these: Sayl Chair by Herman Miller

but yes, Adam's suggestions up there (nailed the exact breakdown of the body parts!) are the basic ways to properly adjust.  I actually have to remember to return to this position, quite often.  It's so easy to hunch... so easy to be lazy...

Thanks Waylan. I agree that good chairs help a lot. 

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