CBA Record March-April 2020

YLS Special Issue: The Balanced Lawyer

Maintain Health, Maintain Balance: Concrete Tips for Maintaining Physical Health as an Attorney By Carl Wharam, PT, DPT

S tarting a new career is hard, espe- cially as an attorney. Clients expect a lot, and quickly. This pressure can easily lead to stress. You’ve heard of maintaining a healthy “work-life balance” but what does that even mean? Maintaining work-life balance, for me, means that you are healthy, that you can handle your workload appropriately and that you can spend time doing things you enjoy outside of work without feel- ing guilty. This article will focus on some simple ways you can improve and maintain your health while in the office. Maintaining your health reduces your risk of burn out, makes you more productive, and improves your sense of well-being. Overall, this leads to more free time and the ability to better enjoy your career. With that in mind, here are three ways to help attorneys stay healthy in the short- and long-term. Vary your work posture. I will let you in on a little secret that took me three years and over $50,000 to learn while I was getting my physical therapy degree: sitting is not bad for you. Slouching is not inherently bad either. (I could write an in-depth article focusing on this topic alone). What is bad, however, is constantly being in one position for long periods of time. When you remain in one static position, your ligaments and other passive structures are placed under constant tension and stress, which weakens them. Consider your credit card. If you bend it once, it can go back to its original shape with minimal change. Bend it 150 times and what happens? It breaks into two pieces. A similar thing can happen to the ligaments and other structures in your back which are instrumental in protecting you from suffering a disc bulge/herniation (this is what people usually mean when they say

they “blew a disc”). A disc bulge occurs when the nucleus (the center of the disc) begins to push through layers of the annulus (the layers of tissue keeping the nucleus where it is supposed to be). A disc herniation occurs when the nucleus goes through the annu- lus, which can cause the nucleus to press on the nerves in your back. These nerves are behind the nucleus but in front of the bones you feel if you press on the middle of your spine. Picture, for example, a jelly donut where the jelly is the nucleus and the donut is the annulus. When you squeeze the donut and the jelly looks like it is ready to burst out, that is analogous to a disc bulge. A disc herniation, however, is when the jelly actually comes out of the donut. If the annulus or nucleus pushes on your nerves, then problems may arise. Some of you may have experienced symptoms asso- ciated with a disc bulge or herniation. You may have experienced pain shooting down your leg, possibly reaching your big toe. You may have also felt a tingling sensation following the same path. The good news is these symptoms are preventable. It only

takes two minutes to restore 50% of the protective joint stiffness in your spine. By getting up and walking for three minutes once an hour, you can protect your back. It also gives you the added benefit of a mental break. Taking a mental break is something many of my patients struggle with because they feel they have to work constantly to capture all the billable hours they can. But standing up and adding movement into your day has been shown to improve problem-solving ability, memory and neu- roplasticity (the brain’s ability to change and adapt). Are standing desks good? Yes. Are regu- lar desks good? Yes. The key, however, is to find a balance and not be in one prolonged posture for too long. So, change position while sitting, or, better yet, add in a couple of extra steps to your day and make yourself a little smarter while protecting your back. Eat vegetables or fruit at work, not chips or granola bars. I have some unique bucket list items. One

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