A Better Work Environment

Dr. Trevor Ling, a physical therapist and owner of Peak Potential Physiotherapy & Wellness, advises listeners on the basics of a productive, at-home work environment. He also shares how Peak Potential is adapting to demand for tele-health services.

See the transcript below.

Anna Bell: Today I’m thankful to have local physical therapist and owner of Peak Potential Physiotherapy and Wellness, Dr Trevor Ling, on the phone to talk with us about the importance of a good working environment at home. Dr. Ling, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today.

Dr. Trevor Ling: Oh my pleasure. Thank you for having me come on Anna.

AB: Absolutely. First I’d love to know a little about your background in physical therapy and and maybe how long you’ve had your practice in Collierville? 

TL: Sure. Both my wife and I, who’s a doctor of physical therapy as well, Amanda, we’ve been practicing for over 15 years in physical therapy. We’ve had our clinic, our practice in Collierville since 2015 and we opened up November of 2015.

AB: That’s great. And what kind of led you to physical therapy? 

TL: The background is I was a high school soccer player and was playing soccer in college and spent a lot of my time being hurt and a lot of time in the training room when I was in college and realized that I wanted to be in the health care field. Both my parents were in the healthcare field. I knew I wanted to do something in that, but knew I didn’t want to go to a medical school. So athletic training was presented to me. And so I’m also a certified athletic trainer, so I’m the guy who runs out on the field when someone gets hurt when sports are being played, which is not right now.

AB: Are you doing that in a Collierville though? Are you doing it local?

TL: I haven’t in a while. I haven’t been practicing like at a school or anything, but we do work with several of the high school as far as soccer teams, just getting their athletes in and working as physical therapy. So we’re working on it from a rehab side of things as opposed to a first responders type of work.

AB: Dr. Ling, physical therapy is considered an essential service right now, correct? 

TL:  Yes, yes. By the, by the state department or the CDC, we are considered an essential health care professional right now.

AB: Now are you still seeing your patients at your office for injuries and pain management and if so, what new procedures have been put into place in light of the COVID-19 pandemic? 

TL: Right. So yes, we are still seeing patients in our facility. The stipulations that are put in place to follow the CDC regulations are that, it’s kind of one person on one person out there stopped at the front desk where usually we kind of have an open door policy. Temperatures are being taken before people come in hand sanitizer or washing of hands is done. The patient can also wear gloves and masks, which are available, but all of the providers, there’s two other providers including myself, are wearing gloves and masks while treating patients. And all equipment that is used is cleaned between patients and we’re all in our clinic, our tables that we do manual therapy on with our hands, are spread out at least six feet away from one another.

AB: Oh yeah. I mean, I know everybody’s having to put in and get creative and do new processes and new procedures right now. And in what ways maybe have you can tell us, have you and your business had to adapt to serve your patients? Are you, are you offering telehealth services? And if so, how’s that going? 

TL: Yeah, so you’re right, we’ve had to pivot greatly. So there are a lot of people who are scared and fearful and by good reasons. And so, we’re offering not only our in person physical therapy, but what we call digital or virtual physical therapy sessions as well, or telehealth options depending on everyone’s different vernacular. So what that involves is, kind of like how we got on this call is a link is sent to someone’s email. They click on it and we do video-based so that we can see someone’s movement and then show people how we want to take them through certain movement patterns to loosen up certain things and so that they don’t lose track or lose the momentum they’ve gained. And that’s how we’ve augmented a lot of our treatment with people who aren’t wanting to get out of their house first for the quarantine or the Safer At Home.

AB: That’s really what I was thinking about, you know, prior to this, you know, individuals who’ve had surgeries or whatnot who were trying to work on injuries. And, you know, I bet this telehealth service, being able to actually see you as probably helped greatly in that field when people are a little nervous of getting out of the house right now.

TL: Right. It does allow that connection to occur still. Because a lot of times, the whole healthcare field, or at least our field is, we feel as though the laying on of hands. But it also is the one on one connection like we were talking about earlier, sometimes being able to see someone’s interaction with you. But for us it’s actually we are a movement specialists so we can see someone move and we can see what the problems are in their movement patterns is and we can very easily and dramatically help someone virtually. And that’s what we’ve been seeing is a really cool aspect of how we’ve had to pivot is what we get on a call with someone being able to see that. It’s incredible. We always think of all we can do is with our hands.

TL: But then it was told to me before, it’s like what tells our hands what to do and then it’s our head. And if we can still use our head and tell someone the different things that they can do, we have to be more creative. But that leads us into what we’re talking about is, is setting yourself up at home. And the fact that we’re able to come into someone’s home like this via virtually or tele-health wise, we can actually see their setup and we can show them different ways to set their home office up or different ways to lift or how they can maintain their strength and, and lifting techniques all at home, which is really cool.

AB: That’s so cool. And so important to, I mean, you may not can see all of us right now, but we are looking for your help, like you’re saying. So, because many of us are at home with our makeshift offices and for the foreseeable future, I’m afraid and we’re missing our standup desk and our lumbar support chairs. And maybe if you don’t mind, maybe you can tell us. I’d love to hear from you, if you could share some of your tips on maybe best practices for working at home and, and why it’s so important that we consider making ourselves a healthier home office? 

TL: Yes, definitely. And even it goes into even those moms or parents who are homeschooling or online learning. But even for them and, you know, my wife who is a physical therapist, well, trying to keep their desk healthy and you’re sitting at a dining room table as opposed to a desk, like you said, your standing desk or something like that. And the chair doesn’t have good lumbar, doesn’t raise up and down. It just doesn’t do all the things that we need it to do. And so some of the best practices, I mean, you alluded to the blog that Amanda wrote is it gives seven tips. I’ll go over a few and if you want me to add in a few, I can always, we can always go over that, but I don’t know if you’ll link to it, but they can always find it by searching as well.

TL: So the first one is, as you alluded to before, is considering a standing desk and people are like, well, how am I going to get a standing desk at home? There’s really easy ways you can make one. You can also use the power of Amazon. There’s very simple, small, like, you know, two by one and a half foot desks that we have at the office with wheels on them that will raise up to at least, maybe about 40 inches, which is close to a counter height. And so it’ll at least give you the ability to stand up and down. And those range from that you can get them less than a hundred dollars. So they’re actually very economical that you can find on Amazon. So it was very worth someone’s while to purchase one of those. If you can’t get one of those is using books or other things to stack your laptop on, cause most of the time people are on a laptop.

TL: So taking some, some, some old books, some textbooks or  I did a podcast or a zoom call with our pastor last week and just an old milk crate is another good way to use cause it creates a couple of feet tall and you can find those probably just on the side of a Kroger. They’re getting rid of them. So, um, get one of those, set it up, put an Amazon box up there and something that usually a counter heights about 40 inches and you want another foot above that so that you want the screen, the top of the screen to be about eye level. So if that, that kind of gives you a good rule of thumb is make sure the top of the screen is at eye level. Now the problem is that then with a laptop, your keyboard is up that high. So then you got your hands up underneath your chin trying to type. So I always say, you know, someone’s got a desktop or something, you can take the keyboard out of that and plug it into your laptop and have the keyboard down low while your monitor is up high. Or again, the power of Amazon, you can get a wireless keyboard, which is very effective as well.

AB: Okay, great idea. That’s a good tip.

TL: So that’s the first one is just considering standing more. And something to think about is if you have that available, it’s just stand most of the day, but are what we call OSHA standard, which is the occupational safety and health administration. They don’t want you sitting longer than 45 minutes and so get up at least once an hour. So, you know, we got our smartphones, we have these cool computers, right? Get up every 45 minutes and just move around.

AB: That’s a good tip for me because I’m one of those, I get my head down and I’m working real hard and I look up and three hours have gone by and where did the time go? You know, so that’s, that’s important.

TL: Well, and it’s good being a knowledge worker and getting into your work, but then you have to, you have to give your mind a break too, which kind of leads into the second tip that’s on our article is clean off your desk. And I’m preaching to the choir here because if you looked at my desk at work, it’s kind of controlled chaos and you think about it, if you’re looking at your dining room table, you probably have some piles of stuff here and there.

TL: SAnd the thing is when your desk is cluttered, your mind becomes cluttered. We have this whole thing that people always like, well, why don’t you talk a lot about, you know, your mind and breathing and all that stuff is because, you know, we can’t separate body and mind. And so we are very much into, you know, get a clean work environment, cleans up your space, the clutter in your head, and then you can actually have, it won’t take you three hours to get into something. It’ll take you 30 minutes, and then after you do what you need to do, you can get up and get moving again and then, get back to your deep work, so to speak.

AB: Yeah, that’s a great tip.

TL: So that’s number two is just clean off your desk, you know, try to try to find, you know, get your bills, junk mail, briefcases magazine, just just off of it and just start with that. The third one is something, it’s again, common sense is not only common knowledge, so it’s not always common knowledge. So it’s really check your lighting and you don’t realize it. I know we’re not doing video here, but I’m in a guest room, which doesn’t have, it, didn’t have great lighting. And so I opened up a window. So if you’re in your dining room, most dining rooms are near an open window.

TL: So open up the blinds, get natural light in, and that’s going to have decreased strain on your eyes. You won’t have to get your head closer to your computer, which then strains your eyes as well as your neck and then can lead to headaches and other things.

AB: It sounds like I’m kind of getting the same message over and over again, that all of these things are interconnected. It sounds like all of this is a ripple effect. Almost one, you do one bad thing and it ripples out into the rest of your body it sounds like.

TL: Right. There’s a term we use called regional interdependence and it’s just a fancy term for when you were a kid. The head bone is connected to the foot bone. So really everything, everything is connected.

TL: The other thing with the lighting though, dim lighting can also make you feel sluggish and less productive. So when you said, well, I’m sitting there for three hours doing something, if you might be a little bit more productive, if you had less strain on your eyes, better lighting, it also could result in headaches being, having a strain on your eyes as well. So again, like you talked about is it is all connected. So if you don’t have all of these variables under your control, then then try to find a place that you can.

AB: And I know too, you know, when the sun’s coming through my window, my mood’s a little bit better too. So I believe you.

TL: You get that vitamin D even though you you don’t get it through the windows, you know, you, your eyes, your photoreceptors, acknowledge that and you feel you feel better. Maybe work with a smile on your face.

AB: Yes, exactly. So kind of recap some of these tips that we need to consider our desk height, keeping it eye level and standing more, getting up once an hour at least. At least clean and cleaning off our desk and making our clutter-free and checking our lighting. Those all sound like really good tips to put into practice that are easy. You know, it doesn’t sound like any of the things are difficult to do.

TL: Cost a whole lot unless you wanted to invest in it. And most of the time people can find the stuff around their house and do it. Like you said, you don’t have to buy the pneumatic desk on online. You can use all those Amazon boxes you have coming in anyway to help out.

AB: There you go. Well, before we wrap up, Dr. Ling, what is your personal message to the community as most of us have transitioned to home offices during this code 19 pandemic? 

TL: Well, one is basically you’re not alone. I mean, people were, were isolated, but we’re not, I mean, obviously I’m talking to you, you know, you might be in a state, I don’t know. But that’s the thing is you’re not alone and no matter what your issue is, there’s someone else having that same issue. And we deal with it all the time. So to kind of shorten it is that you’re not alone and there’s always help. Okay. So be it physically, be it mentally as a healthcare professional, we want people to come out of this quote unquote pandemic, you know, however you want to call it, crisis, stronger on the other side. I mean, there’s so many good things that are coming out of this. And so it’s to come out stronger on the other side. You’re not alone. And if you need help, reach out. And that’s why that’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re still open for people who are just like, I gotta get in or you know, we have a lot of PT clinics that are closing and people don’t know that.

TL: And so we’re doing everything we can to stay open for y’all following the guidelines, not letting more than 10 people and doing all the things we talked about, but you’re not alone and there is still help. And if you can’t get out, we have the virtual option for you as well. The tele-health option or the digital PT, however you want it to, to categorize it, but you’re not alone and there is help and I feel we can all or I know that we, we can all come out stronger on the other side of this.

AB: I totally agree. Dr. Ling, we sincerely appreciate your time and the tips that you shared with us today. I really do.

TL: Yeah, it’s been my pleasure. I thank you for reaching out.

AB: Absolutely. If you are interested in learning a little bit more of those tips that Dr. Ling was talking about, you can go to peakpotentialpt.com, they’ve got an awesome blog there with a list of information. So do that. Everybody who’s listening, I’d like to send you all well wishes from my home to yours. Until next time, I’m Anna Bell.

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