Pictures Don’t Lie (Issue 1122)

In which we are reminded that we can think we’re doing a great job until someone shows us a picture or recording.

“Ask someone to take a picture of you sitting in your office chair and send me the picture,” my newly appointed physical therapist, Mary, requested at the end of our first visit.

My path to Mary began six months ago when I heard a loud “pop” in my right shoulder. I was lifting a weighted bar from my waist to my chin. For weeks thereafter,  I rested it and stretched gently to maintain my range of motion. After several months of little diminished pain and weakness, I booked an MRI. The first shoulder doctor I went to looked at the MRI and said, “bone spur likely chafing the muscle, you’ll need surgery now or later.” The second shoulder doctor said, “Yeah, bone spur, not a big deal, no surgery, here are some exercises you can do at home, see a physical therapist if you’d like.” The exercises made things worse.

The third shoulder doctor, considered one of THE Boston-area shoulder guys, looked at the MRI and said, “bone spur, not a big deal, cortisone shot to reduce inflammation, GO TO A PHYSICAL THERAPIST(!!!!) for postural issues, come back in six weeks.”

Postural issues?

Which is how I ended up at Mary’s for physical therapy.

After looking at the MRI and exploring my shoulder, she said, “The ball at the top of your humerus that fits into the shoulder socket is rotated too far forward. That’s why you have limited range of motion and pain in certain positions.” She then asked, “How do you sit when you work?”

“I sit up,” I said, and I mimed how I sit in my chair and use my keyboard. She nodded and asked me for the picture.

One of the folks in an office down the hall agreed to take a picture of me sitting in my chair. I handed her my phone, sat in my office chair, up straight as I usually do, and typed a few things on the keyboard. She took the picture and handed me the phone.

I felt startled. The picture showed I was sitting in what looked like a gentle “C”. My hips were several inches forward. My back was rounded. My shoulders were rotated forward. My head was tilted forward. Postural issues.

I sent the picture to Mary. She replied: “See? You think you’re sitting up straight because you’ve become used to that position and you’ve called it ‘straight’ and it isn’t. I have people who come in here bent forward 15 degrees or 20 degrees and they think they’re standing up straight.”

“I thought I was,” I said.

“Yes, of course you did, which is why I asked for pictures.” She smiled. “Pictures don’t lie.”

Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. He assists banks and credit unions to generate more and more profitable relationships, faster, with business clients, their owners, and their employees through better sales strategies and execution. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.

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