11.17.2014

Stand up, sit down, fight fight fight

In late spring, I wore a pair of high-heeled shoes. I felt like dressing up for work. I like the way they make me feel youthful and girly. And for someone who squeaks by at 5'4" when I'm standing ramrod straight, the added height with tall shoes is bonus.

Right around the same time I wore this fabulous, feminine footwear, something in my back slipped or bulged or inflamed. It didn't matter whether I was walking, lying down, floating in a pool, curled in the fetal position -- my back hurt. Hurt doesn't even begin to describe the pain. And any sense of looking feminine went right out the window; I looked like the Hunchback. I tried chiropractic adjustments and electric stimulation. I iced it. I slathered it with Sportscreme. I broke down and went to an internal med doc who prescribed some lovely narcotics and several sessions with a physical therapist.

The pain has waxed and waned, but I haven't been the same since those damn heels.

The doctor also suggested that my sedentary lifestyle could be aggravating the condition. At first I was offended. Sedentary lifestyle? I'm not sedentary! I am go, go, going all the time! I work out! I take walks! But a closer look at my actual physical movement throughout the workdays left me shocked. There were times I sat in my desk chair from 7:30 a.m. to noon, and from 12:30 to 5, with only an occasional restroom break or trip to the coffeepot. I even ate my lunch at my desk. I wear a device that monitors the number of steps I take each day. I believe 10,000 steps a day is the target to shoot for; there have been days when I crawled into bed at night without hitting 3,500.

Doc called desk work "the new smoking" and had me convinced I needed to make a much more concerted effort to move more (and probably eat less, but one thing at a time). Doc wrote a note to my employer in late summer, requesting that I be provided an alternative workspace, one where I could work part of my day standing up.

I thought, "Yes! This would be perfect! Let's do it!"

Then I found out getting this setup was not so simple as a medical request from a licensed physician. Because this desk would be special, I needed to schedule time in the company's Ergo lab to test out the equipment and see if it met my needs. So I had the letter and I scheduled the lab time. Meanwhile, my back continued to be compressed into my desk chair as I was still working up to 12-hour days in front of my computer screen. Finally, I thought, I'd jumped through the hoops (no small feat for someone with disk issues). Then came the big whammy. If I wanted one of these desks and my doc felt it was medically necessary, I could have one . . . but only if my manager agreed to foot the $1,100 bill.

More paperwork. More begging. More waiting.

Eventually, the higher-ups agreed, signed on their dotted lines, emptied out their pockets, whathaveyou. Yes, they said, I could have the sit-to-stand workstation. Hooray!

Seven weeks after I got the monetary OK, they finally installed the desk.

For reasons completely unrelated to my frustration over the wait for the desk, I thought about quitting last week. But honestly, I felt guilty about the extra cha-ching they forked over and thought it would be bad form to give two-weeks' notice just as my fancy-schmancy adjustable desk arrived. Although, now that I think about it, I've put in so much unpaid extra time lately (the joy and honor of being "salaried") I probably have paid for the thing ten-fold.

So far, after the first six hours, I'm enjoying it immensely. This is the most comfortable I've been in ages. It's kind of a bummer I work from home two days a week. Maybe I'll figure out a similar ergo setup for my home office. Or maybe a couple days a week, I'll just stand in my cubicle at work in my jammies and fuzzy slippers.

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