Over the course of several months, I have been talking to Dr. Scott Donkin, an internationally published author, chiropractor, lecturer and consultant about challenges people face to their health caused directly by poor sitting habits. Dr. Donkin has been in private practice in Lincoln, Nebraska for over thirty years.
I was introduced to Scott by Dr. Joe Sweere, who teaches ergonomics at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Joe is brother to Ergotron’s founder, the late Harry Sweere. Not only was Joe instrumental in establishing ergonomics as a key factor in the design of Ergotron products but he and Scott were once in practice together. Together they have a long history of involvement with ergonomics and Ergotron.
Scott has much to teach us about good posture and in particular, how to sit without fatigue or pain. He refers to postures such as sitting and standing as “activities of daily living” — basically habits or pieces of a puzzle that together form an overall quality of life. He includes topics such as stress, exercise and sleep because those activities influence posture and vice versa. In fact, from a clinical point of view, good or bad posture can make any activity better or worse. Learning how to leverage this fact is vital to enjoying all aspects of your life.
An important lesson Scott has learned in his practice is to meet people where they are, then invite them to another, healthier place. He works with people from all walks of life on a daily basis. In my case, Scott has been a wealth of information in my mission to educate Ergotron customers and employees about the importance of ergonomics (which, by the way, has been called “the science of everyday life”). Here are some excerpts from several conversations between Scott and me that I hope you will find interesting.
Here are some excerpts from several conversations that I hope you will find interesting.
Carrie: Scott, to begin with, can you say a little about your work and how it relates to ergonomics?
Scott: I began Chiropractic practice in 1980 and found that adjusting patients’ chairs and workplaces helped get better results. We found a link between better workstation use, improved posture, quality of work and fewer physical complaints.
Carrie: What did employers think about these results?
Scott: Employers of the people I helped were impressed with the positive results, and they wanted me to do the same for additional employees.
Carrie: It’s been my experience that people are eager for ergonomic guidance. The desire to improve is something universal among humans. We’re lucky to live in a time when rapid and widespread communication is available to so many. At Ergotron, we created a website where people can access the latest research on ergonomics and wellness at research.juststand.org
Scott: What really attracts me to Ergotron is that you provide solutions to help people around the world.
Carrie: Sounds like we’re on the same page when it comes to spreading the word about healthy computer use. I understand you’ve been working on this topic for a few decades now. You even wrote a book addressing office ergonomics. What was the impetus for that?
Scott: My first book Sitting On The Job, written in 1982 was inspired by patient and company results. Sitting can be a health positive activity, but one must learn how and why to make it that way or you get the wrong result. Sitting On The Job has been in print for almost three decades & still available because many issues remain.
Carrie: What were some common issues you encountered when fixing workplaces for better ergonomics?
Scott: Most common were back, neck and/or extremity pain, headaches, stress, fatigue, eyestrain, and diminished morale. Employees were not aware of how to sit in their seats or adjust their workplaces for better health & performance. I quickly found out that simply adjusting their workplaces did not have lasting effects.
Carrie: Were you ever able to find a way to make workplace adjustments last over the long term?
Scott: Yes. When I explained how and why, then coached people through making their own improvements longer term changes resulted.
Carrie: So, teaching them to fish, right? And you followed up with two more books, Peak Performance: Body and Mind and an ebook Sitting Smarts. I have to say, as a former technical illustrator, the many straight-forward illustrations you provide in your books really caught my attention. Even with my training, it’s often hard for me to imagine what’s going on with the human body by verbal descriptions alone. The graphics literally put flesh on the anatomical issues that people are having when they sit, stand and move.
Scott: I’m glad you noticed the illustrations! In writing these books it was my intention to present the information in ways that people could easily comprehend. Otherwise, they might not reap the full benefits of my recommendations. I really want people to have the information and pathways to change their lives for the better.
Carrie: But your work to educate people on ergonomics and posture isn’t limited to the press is it? I was impressed to learn that you had done a TEDx talk in your hometown, Lincoln Nebraska. can you tell us about the subject of that presentation? TEDx talk in your hometown, Lincoln Nebraska. Can you tell us about the subject of that presentation?
Scott: Yes, the subject is ‘Sit Smarter Not Harder’. Many of us are familiar with that cliché applied to ‘Work Smarter Not Harder’ but to sit is defined as a ‘rest’ activity by the body. That is why the way we sit is causing so many health and productivity problems world-wide. How to use the body’s design to make sitting health positive is what this TEDxLincoln Talk directly addresses. It is only about 12 minutes long and condenses an enormous amount of information as well as experience for practical use.
Carrie: Using our body as it was designed to move is a key principal in ergonomics. It’s all about improving efficiency, and limiting fatigue and injury that occur when you aren’t mindful. Scientists are always looking for evidence-based data to describe proper mechanics in a meaningful way – which reminds me of an EMG graph I’ve seen representing the electrical burst that happens when a person transitions from one posture to another. It originated with Dr. Marc Hamilton, who is a leader in physical inactivity research. Let’s talk a bit about that transition between postures.
Scott: I like to think of that transition you’re referring to, as the bond between sitting and standing. It’s more than a relationship, because they actually influence each other at a very basic level. In fact, if a person stands poorly they are bound to sit poorly. Carrie, do you know the posture rule?
Carrie: No, I don’t think I’m familiar with a rule for posture.
Scott: The posture rule is that posture rules. A litmus test for good ergonomic implementation is exhibiting good posture whether sitting or standing. A dysfunctional posture is a red flag that other bad things are going on as well. The good news is that if you can correct one, it should help correct the other. In other words, good sitting
Carrie: It’s clear that anyone who works at a computer can benefit from your understanding and experience assessing posture. Which reminds me, I want to mention that you’re going to give people a chance to get a free download of the first chapter of your e-book, SittingSmarts.
Scott: I’m very happy to give people a chance to obtain this first chapter of SittingSmarts online.
Carrie: I downloaded SittingSmarts to my printer so I have it on-hand whenever I need to reference a concept or illustration. It has served me very well over the last few months! ______________________________________________________________________________ Join me (@giveafig) and Scott (@ScottWDonkin) the first Thursday of each month, starting August 7 at 1 PM CT, for #standchat on Twitter. This is an opportunity to network and discuss the sit-stand movement with other influencers in the chiropractic, physical therapy and wellness world. Scott will also let you how to receive a free copy of the first chapter of his e-book #SittingSmarts.