Opinion: Getting bent out of shape


Back pain is a major problem in this country. It’s the second-biggest reason people don’t go to work in the morning. The first reason is not having a job.

I have a longstanding relationship with my back, but ironically, most of my problems come from sitting too long. I read somewhere that while stationed at the computer, I should put my butt at the outermost edge of the chair. I tried that, slid off and almost broke my jaw on the keyboard.

My health care providers have tried desperately to help me correct my sloppy posture. I have a genetic predisposition — sometimes I have pain in dis position, sometimes in dat position.

I’ve been going to a chiropractor who uses the traditional approach practiced by the Mafia for generations: He roughs me up, inflicts pain and then takes my money. Time for a different approach.

Irwin, my new physical therapist, instructed me to stand like I normally do when I talk to someone. He said he prefers to observe his subjects in their natural setting. This sounded a lot like Jane Goodall justifying her first expense report. I don’t know about you, but my extremities pretty much fall into place on their own when I’m chatting with someone. I don’t think about where to put my right leg, how to hold my head or how to position each arm. I just start yacking away, although I do try not to put my foot in my mouth.

When I got myself into my normal stance, the therapist shook his head.

“You lean too far to the left,” he said, which is exactly what WIBC said to me in l995 when they fired me from my talk show.

On the massage table, Irwin rotated my head and neck to assess my range of motion.

“I don’t think your spine has a good relationship with your legs,” he commented. 

He was probably right. I was sure that through the years there had been very little conversation between the two. I would have overheard it.

To improve my posture, he suggested walking with my arms at my sides, with the palms facing forward, opened wide and turned skyward. I tried this while I was strolling downtown later that day. It felt odd, except I did score some loose change from sympathetic pedestrians.

Irwin told me to imagine there is a string running up my spine and through my head to the ceiling when I walk. My next appointment is with a neurologist. Not for my spine, but because I walked headfirst into a wall.