Elbows bent above a 90-degree angle. Computer screen positioned too low or too high. Chin jutted forward. Shoulders slumped.
Engage in any of these ergonomic no-nos and over time, you may end up with chronic back pain or spinal problems, say local massage practitioners, who frequently treat clients suffering from work-related aches and pains.
That’s why it’s good news that massage therapy is slowly gaining more clinical recognition as a medical tool, and not just a luxury to indulge in at a day spa.
“We’re seeing more and more use of it on a continual basis,” said Dr. Ronald Warninger, who has had massage practitioners in his Yakima chiropractic clinic for about three years. “The increase that we have seen has been tremendous.”
Several other chiropractors around town refer clients out to massage practitioners or have them based in their office, he said. Physical therapists and hospitals do, too.
“If you have a chronic condition or an acute painful condition, medical types of massage therapy can be beneficial because they’re going to decrease stress and lighten up muscle tension, which is going to alleviate some pain,” said Danielle Stevens, licensed massage practitioner and owner of DCS Therapeutic Massage in Yakima. “If (people) would stretch their chest out, get massage and chiropractic care, it would decrease their pain considerably.”
Nationwide, workplace ergonomics is undergoing a major shift as employees chained to computers learn to improve their posture and help avoid back problems with standing desks and treadmill desks. And employers are learning that supporting better ergonomics could result in healthier, more productive employees.
Massage practitioners here say they see a lot of lower-back pain, particularly among people working in agricultural or warehouse jobs, as well as common desk-related complaints, such as pain between the shoulder blades that causes neck pain and headaches, and soreness in the right shoulder and arm — what Stevens calls “computer shoulder” or “mouse arm.”
Stevens said several physicians around town refer patients to her, particularly if they can’t figure out what’s wrong, and before they resort to an MRI.
There are often quick, simple things that can be done to help alleviate problems before they become too severe, but it’s a matter of knowing and then actually remembering to do them, said Amy Biskovich, another licensed massage practitioner who works at New Day Massage in Yakima.
“I tell my clients, ‘Children and cats, they naturally stretch when they hear their bodies telling them that they need it’ ... What I tell them is to listen to their body; when it gets cranky, move,” she said. “But people don’t want to take 30 seconds every half hour to stretch, and that’s what the body needs.”
Even while sitting in a desk chair, she said, people can stretch their lower back by leaning forward to put their head on their knees and twisting right and left.
The longer problems go ignored or untreated, the longer it will take to set things right when treatment is actually sought.
Sitting at a desk “changes the whole shape of your spine. You’re sitting there hour after hour, day after day, year after year — it takes its toll,” Biskovich said.
If more people understand how massage can address and reverse those problems, Biskovich said, they may be able to avoid costly and often unnecessary — even unhelpful — surgery.
“The sooner you address a problem, the easier it is to take care of. People tend to wait until they can’t take it anymore,” she said.
Warninger said he’s seen more insurance companies come on board to cover massage therapy, as long as it’s prescribed by a doctor. And nowadays, people are much more open to the benefits of massage than they were 30 years ago, he said.
“I think that trend is in full speed,” he said. “And it should be.”
Connie, Spa Director, at Stevenswood invites you to visit: http://stevenswood.com/spa/spa-menu/ for a list of spa treatments performed by our licensed/certified massage therapists.