Dr. Zavalin is a Doctor of Physical Therapy who created Love to Move to help people move more to improve mental, physical and emotional wellness and way of life. You can find Love to Move on Instagram – @_lovetomove_ or by visiting their website https://www.ltmmtl.com/.
Enjoy today’s guest blog from our friend, Dr. Stefan Zavalin with Love to Move.
I remember groaning in pain as I rolled out of bed with tears coming down my left cheek. The pain in my eye was unbearable. I looked at my pillow. It was wet from the Ziplock full of melted snow that I used as an icepack. It was the middle of the night. I was fully dressed because I knew sleep came an hour at a time. I took the Ziplock and went outside. The cold Philadelphia winter hit me in the face and the pain subsided slightly. I began to walk quickly down the street. Right turn, right turn, right turn, and another right turn and I was back at the house. Time for another lap. The movement eased the pain. I became fatigued and my muscles gently ached. After a few laps I collected more snow in the Ziplock and went upstairs. Putting the burning drops of medication in my eye, I gritted my teeth as the pain surged. 3 drops. The icepack on the pillow and my eye on the cold. It numbs the pain as I pass out from exhaustion. An hour later, it repeats. It has already been a month of this. Sitting around and laying in bed has given no relief. Movement helped me again and again.
What if I told you there’s an intervention for pain with an interesting cost? If you don’t do it, you feel better. More importantly, it costs you more to do it. Confusing right? Doing this will increase pain and inflammation and reduce your longevity. Not doing it will have the opposite effects in magnitude. Do you know what I’m referring to? It’s sitting. Sitting is a surprising problem and many of us don’t know how bad it really is. The most shocking statistic: sitting more than 11 hours per day increases risk of premature death by 40%.
Many jump to exercise to solve the problem. Yes, exercise improves inflammation. It reduces pain even after we stop exercising. It even promotes longer living. But, it will not fully reverse the damage of prolonged sitting. The answer may be to sit less. By changing the way we perform certain tasks throughout the day we can reduce sitting without doing specific exercise.
Back pain? 78% of desk workers with low back pain who switched to standing desks over several months reported a pain free day . General fatigue and reduced focus throughout the day? Walking for 10 minutes can reset your focus and cognitive planning . Try to find time throughout your day to move more. Can you find ways to complete your work and daily tasks while sitting less? This is exactly the work Love to Move does. We want to adapt your work environment and culture to support healthy changes. It isn’t simply about individuals, but the group as well. The more emotionally supported you feel the less pain you exhibit. This is one of the reasons depression is consistently linked as a risk factor for low back pain .
Exercise does wonders for cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, and chronic pain. But, we cannot jump to exercise when we are in pain.
Exercise does wonders for cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis, and chronic pain. But, we cannot jump to exercise when we are in pain. We now know finding small amounts of movement throughout the day to maintain circulation will give you great benefit. A great starting point: stand up every 30 minutes while at work. Take a movement break to get water, stretch, or do a quick chore if you’re at home. In any case, remember to move within your means. A small amount of pain is normal at first, but it should never be sharp, throbbing pain. For example, one of my previous patients had a knee replacement. Two years later he was still upset that he could not fully squat. Instead of practicing partial squats or lunges, he just sat on the couch. His knee stiffened more and more and the problem persisted. Your body is wired to diminish your pain as you release endorphins, so stimulate it with slow gentle movements, like walking or supported mini-squats. As you sit less, you feel better. If you cannot find pain-free movements, it is highly suggested that you consult with a physical therapist for your specific needs.
More important than movement is finding how you can sit less with the support of your environment, especially at work. Love to Move can help you arrange your work environment and culture to support other choices you make. You do not need expensive equipment or medication to lead a pain-free life. While movement and reduced sitting cannot take away all pain, they are greatly helpful with chronic issues, including fibromialgia. Many times those of us with these diagnoses can be misunderstood and not heard. Love to Move works specifically with companies to address the team culture that affects every employee. There is no cookie cutter approach, because we are all unique. Having your work be supportive to the individuals who need it most, helps everyone. Find ways you can take short movement breaks and reduce your sitting. Your pain will reduce and your body will thank you. We all must learn to sit less and Love to Move.
- Ognibene GT, Torres W, von Eyben R, Horst KC. Impact of a Sit-Stand Workstation on Chronic Low Back Pain: Results of a Randomized Trial. J Occup Environ Med. 2016 Mar;58(3):287-93. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000615. PMID: 26735316.
- Verburgh L, Königs M, Scherder EJ, Oosterlaan J. Physical exercise and executive functions in preadolescent children, adolescents and young adults: a meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2014 Jun;48(12):973-9. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2012-091441. Epub 2013 Mar 6. PMID: 23467962.
- Robertson D, Kumbhare D, Nolet P, Srbely J, Newton G. Associations between low back pain and depression and somatization in a Canadian emerging adult population. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2017 Aug;61(2):96-105. PMID: 28928493; PMCID: PMC5596967.
Thank you, Dr. Zavalin!