In the white-collar world, a desk jockey who spends too many hours seated in a workspace often finds a few aches and pains — and, sometimes, much worse — when the time comes to sit up straight, stand and move around. And that’s where Steve Melchionno comes in.
“The major issue with sitting at a desk all day is that you get really stiff in your thoracic spine, the middle of your back,” explained Melchionno, co-founder and co-owner of the start-up business Elevate Physical Therapy. “So, when the middle of your back doesn’t work, what overworks? Either your neck or your lower back when you’re moving around the house, because they are more mobile than your thoracic spine. And that leads to neck problems and back problems.”
Melchionno teamed with Greg Besson and Pamela Fioretti in creating Elevate Physical Therapy. The trio have a combined 30-plus years of experience in physical therapy. The practice is set up in a ground-floor space in a corporate office building at 19 Old Kings Highway South in Darien. The building’s owner needed to get a variance from the town to enable a medical-related practice to move in.
The new company specializes in outpatient orthopedics, with a patient line-up that Melchionno described as “anyone from weekend warriors to someone with neck pains from being at a desk too long to high school athletes that are having some kind of musculoskeletal pain.” The latter category comprises a large portion of Melchionno’s patient base; shoulder and knee issues are not uncommon among teens.
“These kids train hard nowadays,” he observed. “A lot of kids are sticking to one sport. There’s a lot of pretty good research out there (showing that) if you switch sports every season, you are less likely to be injured because you’re giving your muscles a chance to rest.”
Melchionno acknowledged studies showing a greater level of physical inactivity among teens and pre-teens, and he warned they face potential problems once they get off their backsides and get their bodies into motion.
“Yes, when they are eight, nine or 12, they can sit with poor postures and they have such great healing properties that they can get by with that,” he continued. “But when they get older, that’s when it’s showing. We see a ton of kids with horrible posture, compared to back in the day when they were more active. But if they have horrible posture and they are sitting on the couch all day, they are probably not going develop too much pain because they’re not stressing those areas, compared to the boy or girl who sits with poor posture and then goes to throw a baseball for two hours (and who is) going to probably be sore.”
At the other end of the age spectrum, Melchionno is cognizant of the emotional trauma that often accompanies injuries and illnesses that limit physical mobility in older patients. His approach is a holistic strategy.
“You treat the whole body, you just don’t treat the hip replacement,” he said. “You want to work on balance, you work on cardiovascular that encourages healing — you get them on a bike, get them walking, encouraging them to be more active. If we get somebody to be pain free but they’re sitting on a couch all day, we haven’t succeeded.”
Melchionno and his partners have mostly relied on referrals from local doctors for their initial stream of patients. They are using social media and direct mail to create further awareness of their practice. They plan to ultimately expand Elevate Physical Therapy to have multiple sites across Fairfield County, averaging one new office per year.
As for the aforementioned desk-induced injuries, Melchionno advised a relatively easy strategy to encourage better posture in the workplace. “If you are at a desk all day and as long as it’s not annoying to the man or woman next to you, set a timer so it beeps every 15 minutes,” he said. “And when it beeps, all you do is sit up for 30 seconds. That’s going become a minute and then two minutes. It all starts with the patient.”