Managing Your Posture in PT School

Name: Joshua Holland

Undergrad: Idaho State University

Hometown: Centennial, Colorado

Fun fact: Before PT school, I worked at a BBQ restaurant in Missoula, MT called Notorious P.I.G.

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Last week, I was editing my Biomechanics skills video when I noticed a curly-haired DPT student in my video with fairly poor posture. I was far from excited when I realized that student was me. I knew my posture wasn’t the greatest after years of asymmetrical shoulder position from college pole vaulting and poor lifting mechanics, but I had no idea it was THAT bad! My shoulders were protracted with my head in a significantly forward position. My initial thought was, “man, I am about to be a PT soon…how am I going to teach posture when my own posture is so poor?!”

An average day for PT students involves a heavy dose of lectures, studying, and an even heavier dose of sitting. Often a PT student may be seated in lectures for 8 hours a day. By the end of the day, professors may start to notice students performing many combinations of wiggling, shifting, and slouching, with many students standing up in the back of the class.

The field of physical therapy involves movement for rehabilitation and we often hear, “exercise is good!” However, within school, sometimes we neglect our own movement in order to remain studious. The intention of this blog post is to initiate the thought of posture and provide some quick exercises that DPT students can use throughout their day. As future clinicians, we are role models to many of our patients, so it is important that we recognize our own posture and work to preserve good body mechanics within ourselves in order to have long-lasting careers and fully help our patients.

I couldn’t sleep after seeing my poor posture! So, I set out the next day to find ways to correct and maintain posture and decided to share them with you all. In this blog post, I interviewed Dr. Alice Davis, an expert on the spine, and fellow first year DPT student, Sarah Spivey, a certified pilates instructor since 2007, to provide some tricks on improving posture!

 

Question and Answer Interview with Dr. Alice Davis

Q: Often our posture is poor in class, we tend to slump over to write down our notes, what are some cues we can use in class to correct this?

A: Make sure your feet are flat on the floor and use the back of the chair to support you. You are becoming kinesthetically aware of your body in space as PT students, so try to be aware of the weight on your ischial tuberosities as you sit. Try to make each ischial tuberosity level. The overuse of repetitive poor posture is what creates problems over time, so start to realize your body position while you sit in class.

Q: While we sit in class it feels like we roll our shoulders forward and lean forward to pay closer attention or write on our devices, what are some cues to get those shoulders back with a neutral head?

A: Because you are sitting at computers for most of the days, you tend to have some upper cervical extension and increased flexion in the lower cervical spine. Imagine there is a rope going straight through your head and down to your seat, try to make that rope as straight as possible. A quick exercise you can do in class is move your shoulders up an inch, back an inch, and down an inch, then hold this for ten seconds, and relax. Try to do 10 reps for 10 seconds of this exercise.

Q: For the anatomy nerds out there, what are some of the muscles that are affected by this forward leaning posture/slumped position?

A: The upper cervical spine is extended in this forward posture position. Suboccipitals are a major component in this and often called the headache muscles because it can result in cervicogenic headache. A cervicogenic headache is when the pain begins in the back of the neck first before it goes up to the skull. This can be posture and stress related. Other muscles that play into extensor moment of the upper-cervical spine are the splenius and semispinalis muscles.

Q: Is there any other tips and tricks we can use in the classroom and out of the classroom to help with posture?

A:  

  • Foam rollers are great! You can put the foam roller vertically along your spine with the head and sacrum supported. Using your arms, do some snow angels for pectoralis major and minor.
  • If you are feeling uncomfortable and wiggly, your body is telling you to move – get up and move around.
  • Do something during lunch time. Eating is important, but try not to study if you don’t have to. Give 30 minutes during lunch for your body and mind.
  • Breathing is important. Moving the body and getting the diaphragm to move through breathing helps those muscles that support the thorax. Watch your breathing pattern, especially when you are stressed. Try to do some slow inhales and exhales.
  • Try a simple nodding of your head, as if you’re saying yes. This lengthens the longus colli and capitis muscles that can help with postural support. You can even do this when you’re driving! Rest your occiput on the headrest and perform a little nod. Try to hold the nod for 10 seconds with 10 repetitions.

 

Here are some techniques and exercises for managing posture in graduate school (or any career environment!) brought to you by our very own DPT first year, Sarah Spivey!

 

Sit on deflated Gertie ball.

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This will allow you to sit up on your ischial tuberosities (IT) to encourage a more natural lordotic curve while also eliminating the pressure on the ITs. By sitting on a relatively unstable surface you will also increase the use of your postural stabilizers. Try to incorporate five minutes per hour of sitting.

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Another technique is to use the Gertie ball between your lumbar spine and your chair. Find your ideal posture by allowing yourself to slump in your chair. Now, move into a full anterior tilt of your pelvis until you feel pressure in your lower back. Now, ease off until you feel the pressure disappear. Scoot back toward the back of your chair and place the ball at the level of the lumbar spine. The ball will help you maintain your neutral posture during sitting.

Head nods/nose circles on Gertie ball.

Lie in supine on a firm surface. Bend your knees and place your feet at the distance of your ASIS. Allow your sacrum to feel heavy and equally distributed on the floor/mat. Take a few breaths and notice if you have excessive space between your thoracic spine and the floor. If so, on an exhale, allow your t-spine to sink toward the floor. This should limit any rib flare. Place a 1/3 – ½ inflated Gertie ball (or folded towel) under your head. You should feel pressure evenly distributed near your occipital protuberance – this will insure you are lengthening your cervical extensors (especially for those of use with a forward head!). Take a few breaths and allow your head to feel heavy on the ball. Imagine a one-inch line on the ceiling and slowly trace this line down with your nose. Return to your starting position making sure to avoid moving into extension. Repeat this 8-10 times. Now draw slow circles with your nose around your one-inch line. Keep your circles small and controlled. Perform 6-8 in each direction.

Wall sit pelvic curls.

While sitting in class, if you start to feel your low back tighten up, try this stretch! Stand against a wall with your feet about 12 inches in front of the wall and hip distance apart. Try to feel contact of your sacrum, rib cage and the back of your head on the wall. You should have a very small space between your lumbar spine and the wall. As you exhale, draw your abdominals in and curl your pubic bone up toward your nose. You should feel your lumbar spine flatter against the wall. As you inhale, slowly allow your ischial tuberosities to widen until you are back in a neutral position. Repeat 10-12 times.

 Seated neck stretch – sitting on hand.

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Feeling tension in your neck during class? Scoot forward so your back is away from the chair and sit tall on your ischial tuberosities. Imagine lengthening your cervical spine and then gently tuck your chin toward your chest. Try not to flex your cervical spine! Now allow one ear to fall toward your shoulder. You should feel a stretch on the opposite side. If you would like to increase your stretch, you can sit on the hand of the side you are stretching. For example, if you are feeling the stretch on the right side, sit on your right hand. This will bring your shoulder down and away from your ear.

 

Overall, I hope  this post helped you become more aware of how important it is that we practice good posture while in school, or with any lifestyle! Do you have favorite exercises or tips to remind you to practice posture? Feel free to share with us in a comment below!

Finals Week: A Beautiful Struggle

It’s that time of the year again…

No, we’re not talking about the holidays.

It’s Finals Week, the crescendo of each physical therapy (PT) school semester.

If you haven’t experienced a finals week in PT school, then here are a few ideas of what Regis students encounter during this time each semester.

  1. …but first, Practicals Week

Gone are the days of “dead weeks” leading up to final exams. Practical Exam Week is usually the week prior to all of the written final exams. This is where the skills you have acquired over the entire semester are put to the test to see how you are able to apply them in a real-life situation. During the days leading up to these exams, you will often see students crowding into room PCH 409 to practice their skills and drill each other on the specific times to use them. Study sessions can extend late into the night for some students (Pssst…PT school secret: often these practicals require knowing information that will also be on the written final, so it’s like studying for two exams at once…now that’s a deal!)

  1. Review Sessions

It is not uncommon for faculty members to hold review sessions discussing what to expect on the final written exam. These are often a great help in refining study strategies (PT school pearl of wisdom: take advantage of these sessions!)

  1. Finals Week Schedules

Each class takes 4-5 exams the entire week, with one exam per day and each one for 2 hours. You can find last minute study sessions dispersed across Claver Hall in the hours leading up to the exams to review any lingering questions or fill any remaining knowledge gaps. And hey, after one exam is over, students have 22 hours to study for the next test…what an ample amount of time!

  1. Work-Life Balance

In the words of The Great Tom McPoil, “take a day for yourself every week.” This may be hard to remember during these challenging weeks, but still very relevant. Students usually make modifications to Tom’s “day” suggestion during finals week, and instead take a few hours to relax and meditate with various types of exercise (or naps) – whatever takes the mind off studying for a few moments.

  1. The Triumph of Completing a Semester of PT School

At the end of each finals week, you will find students celebrating another semester down and another job well done! It’s a time to look back at the terrific accomplishments with pride and relish in the fact that your hard work got you here

– Courtney Backward

Check out this video of first and second year students studying (and relaxing) for their finals!

 

Video Credit: Janki Patel

 

Meet the Class of 2019 President: David Cummins

Name: David Cummins, Class of 2019
Hometown: Cortez, CO
Undergrad: Fort Lewis College

Fun Fact: I’ve moved 17 times since graduating high school

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When I received a letter from Regis University notifying me that I’d been accepted into their DPT program, I panicked. I had been working hard to get into PT school, but the reality of the impending changes caught me off guard. As a non-traditional student who had been out of school for more than 10 years, I was nervous about leaving the career I had worked so hard to build. The thought of surrounding myself with young, smart, successful, and ambitious classmates only added to my anxiety.

By the end of the first week of classes, I realized I had found my new family. Classmates surprised me by being genuinely interested in my academic success. They shared study guides, strategies for achievement, and—most importantly—support. There is now a palpable (Ha! Get it?) mentality that we’re all going to get through this program together;  that has made my anxiety melt away.

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David and his classmates climbing a 14er with some time off from school (PC: Elizabeth Johnson)

I was honored when someone nominated me for class president and elated when I was elected because the role will give me a chance to foster the supportive environment that got me through my first few weeks. The position comes with a lot of extra stress, but I’ll be working with an incredible group of elected officers who share the same vision of creating a healthy and supportive environment that is conducive to academic growth and overall success.

The 14 elected officers come from a wide variety of different backgrounds. Some have extensive experience working with physical therapists, some have worked in completely unrelated fields, and some are coming straight from undergraduate programs. Together, we represent a holistic cross-section of knowledge and viewpoints. We will utilize our combined skills and knowledge to build upon the foundation that previous classes have established and add our own projects and ideas to make this experience our own.

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The new officers for the Class of 2019

We’ve already been through a lot in the 11 short weeks we’ve known each other. The support and encouragement I’ve experienced has been overwhelming. Over the next 2.5 years, I hope to cultivate a supportive cohort based on the values we all share: we will be a community that promotes shared academic success and continues to motivate us to be the best, most compassionate physical therapists we can be.

President: David Cummins

Vice President: Katarina Mendoza

APTA Rep: Grace-Marie Vega

Fundraising Rep: Kassidy Stecklein and Celisa Hahn

DPT Rep: Nina Carson

Media Rep: Courtney Backward

Diversity Rep: Stephanie Adams

Ministry Rep: Sarah Collins

Service Rep: Amber Bolen

Move Forward Rep: Sarah Pancoast

Clin Ed Rep: Josh Hubert

Admissions Rep: Kelsie Jordan

Secretary: LeeAnne Little

Treasurer: Jennifer Tram

 

 

Regis DPT gear sale: order before October 30th!

It’s that time of the year: the fall clothing order is here! The Class of 2018 will take orders until October 30th, so now is the time to get your Regis DPT swag.

http://regisdpt.wixsite.com/clothingorder/shop

We have water bottles, wine glasses, hats, shirts and sweaters that will all be emblazoned with the Regis DPT logo upon ordering.  Whether you’re preparing for the winter season or looking for gift ideas, we recommend you check out the list and order before October 30th!

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Upcoming Event: ADVENTURE FEST!

If you love mini golf, go karts, food and craft beer, you do not want to miss the awesome event coming up this Saturday, October 8th! The Regis DPT class of 2018 is hosting Adventure Fest to raise money for our Regis graduation celebration.  It’s also an opportunity to celebrate fall, have fun with family and friends, and get to know the Class of 2019.

When: Saturday, October 8, 2016 from 10am-2pm!

Why: All proceeds from this event will go towards our end of the year bash!

Price: You can purchase one ticket for $18 or 2 tickets for $30.

Children (ages 4-15): $8; those under the age of 4 are FREE!

Tickets: sold Monday-Friday the week of Oct. 3-7th from 12-1pm in the Claver Café as well as in front of the Main Café!

You can buy your tickets with cash, check, or remotely by VENMO (@RegisDPT2018).

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This is an event for all ages and there is something to do for everyone. Each ticket includes free food, $2 craft beers, and a park bracelet that provides you unlimited access to mini golf, go karting, and rope courses! Furthermore, Regis DPT mentors and mentees can enter into a mini-golf competition together and the team with the best score wins a prize. Come out and have a great time while supporting the Regis DPT class of 2018!

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Blogger: Emily Symon, Class of 2018

 

 

6 Weeks into PT School: Meet Kelsie Jordan

Name: Kelsie Jordan, Class of 2019
Hometown: Portland, OR
Undergrad: Oregon State University
Fun Fact: I spent the summer of 2014 studying in Salamanca, Spain.

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If I had to describe the first few weeks of PT school in one word, it would probably be “overwhelming.” I don’t even mean that in a negative way— so many of the experiences I’ve had so far have been amazing—but I would definitely not say it’s been easy. My classmates and I have been overwhelmed with both the excitement and nervousness to finally start this next part of our lives: in the past month, we’ve been introduced to a new school, new people, new homes, new habits, and—of course—with the amount of information we’ve received since the first day of classes.  More than anything else, though, I’ve been overwhelmed by all the new opportunities at my disposal and all the great people I get to spend the next three years with.

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Free concerts and NFL kick off!

You’d think that having a class of 81 people would make getting to know everyone difficult, but it’s been quite the opposite at Regis. It turns out that when you spend roughly 40+ hours per week with the same people who are in the exact same boat, you get to know a lot about each other in a very short amount of time. Of course, I obviously don’t know absolutely everyone well at this point, but it’s still easy to forget that we all met less than two months ago. Before deciding on Regis, I was a little apprehensive about having such a large class compared to other DPT programs; now that I’m here, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

The biggest piece of advice I’ve heard time and time again from the second and third year students is to take time for myself and have fun outside of school. I’ve definitely taken that advice to heart!   Perhaps that means I should be spending more of my free time studying, but hey, at least I’m having fun, right? I’ve managed to leave plenty of time for hiking, camping, sporting events, concerts, Netflix, and IM sports—and I’ve been having a blast! Being a successful student is all about maintaining balance between work and play, so those mental health breaks are important to me for keeping my brain from being overloaded.

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Hiking Horsetooth Mountain in Fort Collins

So exploring Colorado has been the easy part of transitioning to Regis—I mean, what’s not to love? Starting school again, on the other hand…I only took one year off between graduation and PT school, but it still took some transition time to remember how to take notes and study. Fortunately for me, a lot of the material so far has been familiar information from undergrad, though it’s definitely more intense. One of the aspects of the Regis DPT program that I really appreciate is the collaborative atmosphere.  Anyone—students and faculty alike—with a little more expertise in a certain area has been doing their best to share that information by providing extra resources, study sessions, etc. It also helps that we’ve all been embraced right into the Regis DPT community by the second and third years, and I definitely get the sense that the faculty genuinely care about our success in school and in our future careers.

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We’re official! Our new PT supplies after the Professional Ceremony

We’re now six weeks into PT school and sometimes I still have these moments where I can’t believe I’m actually here. It’s crazy to think back to this time last year when I still hadn’t even submitted my first PTCAS application, and now here I am: a student physical therapist. Overall, it feels like I’ve adjusted well to my new home in Denver as well as the grad student life—despite the overwhelming moments. Now that we’re through our first round of exams, it’s probably a safe bet that our “honeymoon phase” has come to a close and we have an increasingly busy schedule looming ahead. I’m still developing responsible study habits and I have a lot to learn about how to be a successful student, but I look forward to the upcoming opportunities for service, leadership, and classmate bonding that the rest of the semester will bring!

Counting down to more blog posts…

The school year has ramped up!  Our Class of 2019 just finished their first set of exams, the Class of 2018 is finishing their last week of clinicals, and the Class of 2017 is preparing for their third clinical rotation next week.

Along with that, the blog committee has new members and we’re excited to begin posting for the 2016-2017 school year!

Check out our website tomorrow to hear from Kelsie Jordan, our first Class of 2019 featured blogger.