Learning about Functional Movement Systems

Interviewed for Pasadena Now about healthy posture

The following article appeared in Pasadena Now on Sept 10, 2012

Leaning Back Better for Posture than Sitting Straight says Pasadena Chiropractor Kevin Cressey


Posture has long been one of the main factors that chiropractors the world over hold responsible for a large chunk of their patrons’ problems. Traditionally, we’ve all been taught to keep a straight posture in everything we do to keep joint and muscle strain and tension at bay. Dr. Kevin Cressey, however, says there’s a better solution: leaning back.

With the advent of computers, we sit for a long period of time, and we tend to migrate our head forward in a “poke-neck” posture,” observes Cressey. “Poke-neck” posture is not good for your neck, not good for your back, certainly develops neck and shoulder tension, and adds stress on the joints. The problem with this is over time, we start to develop stress in the joints and stress in the shoulders, and we wonder why – and it really has to do with how we sit and migrate our head forward towards the computer.
With this Cressey began looking into the matter, researching and studying on how to best deal with the growing posture problem in the workplace.

“I went to the lean-back. The lean-back in your chair usually has some type of recline and it usually has something to give support for your lower back,” he says, and that support is important.

According to Cressey, leaning back slightly at a 120° angle at the hips is the optimal position, bumping off most people’s beliefs that sitting up straight is the proper way to sit.

“When you sit upright at a 90° angle, your back is not relaxed. You’re firing all the muscles in your back, and your neck tends to move forward towards the screen – not a good position. So my suggestion is to lean back! Enjoy that seat. Take a load off of the back, relax those muscles on the back, and bring your workstation to you,” the good doctor recommends.

Depending on whether you wear glasses, your ideal distance from your monitor should be roughly an arm’s length says Cressey. Your eyes should also be at level with the upper third of your monitor to give you a natural down-gaze at your screen.

These are just general ideas on a more relaxed position at work, however, as there are a lot more individual factors to consider that may affect a person’s posture. To ensure that his patients are working at optimal efficiency, Cressey himself likes to drop by his patients’ work area, assessing and treating on the fly.

“For my patients, often, what I’ll do, if they’re within a somewhat reasonable driving range, I’ll just drive out to their office, or I’ll have them snap a picture with their iPad or something and send me an email with it. but I like to get hands-on and see exactly what they’re working with and see what other factors might be contributing.”

“Are you right-eye dominant or left-eye dominant? Would you say that all your work is on the right side of your desk or the left side of your desk? Do you think that you turn your head a bit more during your day?” These are some questions that Cressey asks to find out what other factors may add to back and neck strains.

“One of the things that is really of interest is you increase your sympathetic nervous response by stressing your nerves. So when you stretch your nerves, you increase your sympathetic nerve response, and you increase your cortisol levels, and your stress goes up, and your immune system goes down, and this is bad. Poor posture does this.”

Sitting up straight in itself does not necessarily pose a risk, though, says Cressey. “If you’re sitting at an office for five minutes and you sit up straight, I don’t think it’s gonna lead to too much problems, but it’s the person who sits for six, 10,12 hours at a time, your accountants, your attorneys, people who work at a desk – which is almost all of us nowadays – and sit for many hours and don’t move from that position. We’re not getting hydration in the discs, we’re not bending and moving enough – these are important things to keep in mind.”

“Now, if you did want to sit up straight at a 90 degree angle, you’re gonna have to do a so many abdominal exercises to strengthen your abs so you can normalize the pressure from the front and back and make it even. You can do it, but it’s a lot harder. I prefer for my patients to relax, let your muscles relax, and do your work.”

Another tip Cressey gives is to take the occasional breaks away from work to loosen up get the body moving. “Go to the water cooler. Go to the bathroom. You go to the water cooler enough, you’ll certainly go to the bathroom,” jokes Cressey. “Taking breaks, this is what I recommend. You go and do that, and you force yourself to get up. You rest your eyes for a couple of minutes, you get your spine moving, you get your hips moving, and you are in a better position.”

When asked of how his findings could affect kids, who spend most of the day sitting at their desks at school, Cressey replied: “Well, it’s not likely that children are gonna be in a supportive chair like we are in an office where they’re reclining back. I don’t think it’s gonna really harm them to sit up straight. I think it’s better to teach them that as a kid. When they stand with a straighter posture they’re more likely not to hunch forward as they’re sitting up straight.”

“They really want to avoid the leaning forward, hunching forward, the migrating their head forward, which, let’s face it, kids nowadays, I see them texting, I see them playing their PlayStations, all this stuff, and their heads are face-forward and down. That’s really the thing. Bring the head upright, tuck the chin back, and look straight ahead. That would be the best thing I’m not as worried with their lower backs and slouching.”

Cressey also mentioned talking on the phone as one of the posture problems that often go unnoticed.
“Talking on the phone, use a headset. Don’t tilt your head to the side. All that does is put too much pressure on your joints and your cervical spine. You tilt your head to the side like that to hold the phone, it’s just gonna be a problem. Use a headset if you’re on the phone. Use the phone in the dominant ear. I see patients walk out of here in the parking lot doing that as they’re calling somebody. And I usually shoot them a text and say “Put your headset on.”” says Cressey with a smile.

When he’s not helping others with their Chiropractic needs, you can find Dr. Cressey outdoors either hiking, climbing, cycling, or running. He is the Founder of the Pasadena Hiking Pacers, a free community hiking group who meet every week for a new adventure! Check them out at www.PasadenaHikingPacers.org. Dr. Cressey is also on the Board of Directors of the Pasadena Jaycees, Vice President of Public Relations for the Crown City Toastmasters and the Vice President of the Founder’s Chapter of Business Networking International.

Interviewed for Pasadena Now about chiropractic treatment for pregnant women

The following article appeared in Pasadena Now on July 19, 2012

Local Chiropractor Offers Pain Relief to Pregnant Women


Kevin Cressey is one of Pasadena’s finest chiropractors, as well as an avid hiker who knows too well the toll that physical activity can take on the body. But lately he has babies and mothers-to-be on his mind. Dr. Cressey recently had a newborn, which has led him to approach his profession, and the human body, in quite a different light.

“I certainly have a lot more information and interest in prenatal care now after having my newborn,” he says cheerily. “I’m definitely interested in kids. When you have a newborn, you see a lot of pregnant women; you see a lot of babies.”

“It’s opened my awareness, helping moms with prenatal care and working with other professionals in the prenatal field. It’s something that’s been really interesting and new for me.”

Chiropractic is essentially the maintenance of the spinal column, discs, related nerves and bone geometry without drugs or surgery. It’s the art and science of adjusting misaligned joints of the body, especially of the spine, which reduces spinal nerve stress and therefore promotes health throughout the whole body. But what link does it have to pregnancy?

“What’s happening is during the birth process, the hips aren’t moving as well as they should,” Dr Cressey explains. “That’s often what happens to create or cause back pain, or even stomach pain. It’s something I’ve been uniquely trained in, the Webster technique, to help women with pregnancy adjustments.”

In fact, investing in the fertility and wellbeing of women who are pregnant or trying to conceive is a routine care for most chiropractors. During pregnancy, there are many physiological changes that take place in preparation for hosting the developing baby, which can cause problems to the spine. Chiropractic can actually help control nausea, relieve back, neck or joint pain, reduce the time of labor and delivery, and even prevent the need for a Caesarean delivery.

The care is also relatively straightforward.

“I use these very nice booster pillows that support the mother in a really good way,” Dr. Cressey explains. “I check the tension on the hips and exert a bit of pressure to change and normalize it, give a very delicate massage to the round ligament in order to help it release, give a mild specific adjustment, and that’s pretty much it.”

It must be quite the experience to go from treating athletes and active adults to mothers and their babies.

“To see what a difference it can make to a patient who’s gone through care as a pregnant mother and their vitality after they have their child, and to see how happy and pain-free they are is truly amazing,” he says.