Sitting…Ergonomics…and the Executive

Posted May 22, 2017 by backsafe®
Categories: Back Injury, Backsafe, Bionomics®, Carpal Tunnel, CMT, cumulative micro trauma, cumulative trauma, Ergonomic Evaluations, Ergonomics, Injury prevention, Microbreaks, Risk Management, safety tips, Sittingsafe, Sprain/Strain Injuries, Uncategorized

OFFICE-WORKER-SLOUCHINGWe have all heard about the studies on sitting and how it can negatively impact our health.  It has been proven that sitting for extended periods of time is not good for us.

Office personnel, especially executives, spend a lot of time sitting and looking at a computer.  This sustained posture can cause neck and shoulder discomfort, headaches, low back pain, a sort of malaise, and shall I say it??? a feeling of “I’m getting old”!

Executives, many times, are too busy to even acknowledge the onset of chronic discomfort until lifestyles are affected.

25 years ago we discovered that the “laws of sitting” are not being taught.  This lack of education was exposed when our society became dependent on computers, allowing access to the world while seated in an office or home.

The exposure of this lack of knowledge manifested via fatigue, discomfort, pain and for some, even injury.  ATTEMPTED solutions have included ergonomic chairs, keyboards, sit-stand desks, treadmills with keyboards, etc.  Ergonomic solutions are certainly important, but my gosh, they can become quite expensive.  Moreover, how frustrating it is to the person with wrist, back or neck pain when the $800 chair doesn’t quite eliminate the problem.

Knowledge is power as the saying goes.  There are simple laws of how to sit.  Violation of these laws cause accelerated “micro trauma”. The accumulation of insidious micro trauma is called Cumulative Micro Trauma (CMT) which is the cause of the symptoms mentioned above.

If you assess your body right now, we know that in one or several areas you will feel your own CMT.  The good news is once we know the true source of a problem, the problem can be solved.

The laws of sitting, once known, puts people in charge of how they feel.  What we can do is learn how to sit properly, learn how to set up our chairs, monitors, keyboards, and yes, get rid of CMT by doing certain stretches designed specifically for executives and office support personnel.

I will share some of the laws that we teach in our Sittingsafe® workshops across North America over the next few newsletters.

Here is our first Sittingsafe tip:

blood-vessels-sem-1ykwp1oYour body has 62,500 miles of blood vessels (amazing fact!).  Blood provides oxygen, nutrition and takes away waste.  A law of sitting is to prevent closed angles.  Your ankles, knees, hips and elbows should be positioned at 90 degrees or slightly more to assist blood flow.  Key factors to open angles are the height of your chair and position of your keyboard, mouse and monitor.  Do not let your computer and office furniture dictate your body’s positions.  Adjust your chair so that your knees are slightly below your hips, for most of the day make sure your feet aren’t tucked under your chair (closes ankle and knee angles!)

When typing, your hands should be on the keyboard at the same height or slightly below your elbow (keyboard trays are needed by most people) and the same is true for the mouse.

We will continue these tips in our next newsletter.

Please keep in mind that it is quite simple to alleviate most discomfort caused by sitting.  You just need to know the laws of sitting contained in our Sittingsafe program!

FIT has trainers available across the US and Canada to conduct on-site Sittingsafe workshops for office and executive personnel.  We don’t sell furniture or ergonomic equipment.  We teach people what society forgot to teach us.  Knowledge is power!  Especially if it makes us feel good!

Contact us for more information on our Sittingsafe program (800.775.2225)

Luck vs. Prepared

Posted March 27, 2017 by backsafe®
Categories: Back Injury, Backsafe, Injury prevention, Sprain/Strain Injuries, Uncategorized, Workers' Comp

four-leaf-cloverLuck, A Poor Workers’ Comp Strategy

I have been in the workplace injury prevention business now for over 25 years.  I wish I had a $10 bill for every time I heard “we are lucky so far, injuries are way down”, or “we’ve had some bad luck lately, our injuries are up”, or something to that effect.

Luck appears to have a lot to do with back injuries in particular.  I spoke to a nurse not too long ago and after discussing a spate of back injuries to her colleagues she said “I guess I am just lucky.”

It’s certainly nice to have luck on our side, but unfortunately it is not always dependable.  In business and in life, the less control we have over something the more we have to rely on luck; not exactly a highly successful strategy!

Control is a word that is sometimes maligned, however, it is a huge key to our success, health and happiness.  The more control we have over aspects of our lives, the more successful we are.  Whether it be a bicycle, car, computer, job, finances, or our minds, optimal control makes life more fun and rewarding.

When we were creating the Backsafe® Injury Prevention Programs, we had to understand the exact cause of back injuries to offer reliable and consistent solutions.  We couldn’t sell four leaf clovers for very long and get away with it!

We discovered that when people learned the actual cause of back, shoulder and other sprain/strain types of injuries; and learned how to prevent them as it applied to their lives, back injuries went way down and in some companies almost ceased!

We rely on luck significantly more so when we can’t control well.  4da72e5455df7cfd9c13d6086ff441c9The Vegas slot machine is virtually all luck because of a total lack of control of those spinning dials.

Your employees can control their health better.  They just need to become aware of how to do that.  The more your employees control their own well-being, the more you are controlling your workers’ comp costs, productivity and lost time.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Everything in nature goes by law, and not by luck”.

The spine (shoulders, wrists, neck too) operates on its own laws, and when one knows them it should last a lifetime…no luck needed!

 

I’m So Tired of Standing!

Posted December 21, 2016 by backsafe®
Categories: Backsafe, Ergonomics, Injury prevention, RSI, safety tips, Stretching, Uncategorized

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line12During this busy season, it’s impossible to avoid standing still for long periods of time…

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Consider waiting in line at the post office…

Standing in the kitchen creating confectionary delights…

Wrapping gifts for hours on end…

Standing ovations at your children/grandchildren/student/neighbor concerts…

Placing decorations thoughtfully…

I’m certain you could add to this list from your own traditions as well.

Despite the joy and happiness the season brings, standing still for long periods of time is a form of Repetitive Stress and can contribute to low back pain and fatigue.

Hamstrings can tighten, which can also lead to back pain.

Here are some useful tips to keep you feeling great this holiday season:

  • It is no accident that bars install standing foot rails to keep their patrons comfortable.  Raising one foot can relieve stress and prevent fatigue.  Open a cabinet door and use the cupboard as a footrest while doing dishes or even brushing your teeth.hamstring-stretch-revised-11-20-13
  • Shift your feet from a normal width when standing to a wider stance from time to time, particularly if you are working on a lower surface.
  • Alternate staggering your feet.
  • Do a back extension stretch and a hamstring stretch from time to time, especially when standing on tile or other hard surfaces.

These are a small part of our Backsafe® Injury Prevention program  which many companies find so very helpful for preventing sprain/strain injuries for their employees.

Here’s to a healthy, peaceful and happy holiday season to you and those you love.

Turkey Safety…or How To Lift The Bird

Posted November 16, 2016 by backsafe®
Categories: Back Injury, Backsafe, Injury prevention, Safe lifting, safety tips, Uncategorized

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61892990b3d8652402fc02630ee961ea.jpgThanksgiving is right around the corner and likely most of you have already begun to plan an epic feast!  Turkey is of course, the classic menu as we hunker down to the table.

However, before we slip into our elastic waisted pants and tryptophan coma, let’s consider some safety tips—just for turkey.  Safety tips for turkey?  Really?

Yes!  There are some well documented dangers associated with our beloved bird…

Who could forget infamous Les Nessman and the WKRP turkey drop—“As God as my witness, I thought turkeys could fly”  (watch here). or Joey from Friends getting the turkey stuck on his head (watch here).

images-2Dangers abound with inexperienced chefs trying to deep fry turkeys—so many frightening You Tube videos on this one…

But from an ergonomic viewpoint, there are some musculoskeletal concerns that come with lifting heavy birds in and out of the oven, and to the table.

So in preparation for the big day, here are some lifting tips to avoid injury…

A 14 pound turkey held close to our bodies is 14 pounds of pressure on our spines.  BUT did you know if we reach out only 10 inches holding that same 14 pound bird it translates now to 140 pounds of pressure on our backs????

A Backsafe® rule that we teach is Keep the Load Close!  When handling hot or wet items when it is impossible to hold it next to your body, you can hold them close by locking your elbows in by your side, to provide stability and to keep the load as close as possible.  When setting down or putting in the oven, get as close to the target landing area as possible and then put the front edge onto the table or rack, and then slide in to the desired position.  Reverse this motion when lifting from the table or oven.

Remember, the cause of most back and shoulder injuries is insidious “cumulative micro-trauma”.   Keeping the Load Close is a wonderful way to help prevent the buildup of micro-trauma that can contribute to making us feel older and less flexible.  And who knows, this one little tip may help you to prevent what could be a life altering injury someday!

We all have a lot to be thankful for!  Let’s keep it that way!

Happy Thanksgiving from FIT!

Tech Neck…Yes, It’s a Thing

Posted October 2, 2016 by backsafe®
Categories: Backsafe, Ergonomics, Injury prevention, safety tips, Sittingsafe, Stretching, Uncategorized

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police-release-shocking-video-to-reduce-mobile-phone-distraction-deathsWe’ve all seen them, pedestrians stooped forward over the ubiquitous mobile device…seemingly oblivious to traffic, other pedestrians and potholes.  Heck, we might have even been one of “those people” ourselves!  Tech Neck sufferers are everywhere!

Our obsessive attachment to these devices comes with a myriad of issues of course, but let’s discuss the physical/anatomical costs of this love affair.

Consider neutral posture—head up, shoulders squared, arms at ease—would fully support your 10-12 pound head.  Lean forward, shoulders hunched, clutching a phone and now you’re looking at much more relative weight being supported by your spine…up to 60 pounds in fact!

prescription-computer-glassesAdd in the fact that many of us wear corrective glasses that cause us to further distort our neck to find the right spot to actually be able to read that tiny print…and you can imagine, it’s a constant burden our spines were just not designed to manage.

So now that we’ve established what we all see and experience daily, the bigger discussion should be:  what can be done about it?

As a leader in the Injury Prevention business for 20+ years, FIT has a couple of great, practical suggestions.

  1. From time to time raise your cell phone so you are reading with your head in a more level position.  Use those biceps you’ve been working on at the gym to lift that tiny device closer to your face, rather than subjecting your poor overused spine to dangle that heavy head!
  2. Try out some neck stretches to reverse the accumulated micro trauma—because that prolonged posture really is causing trauma to your shoulders and neck.  FIT’s Backsafe® and Sittingsafe® stretches are easy to do and have proven very effective.  You can check them out on the website:  www.backsafe.com  The Cross Shoulder Pull, Shoulder Rolls, and the Chin Tuck are especially therapeutic. If you really like them, you can even order your own laminated card by calling FIT at 800.775.2225.

It seems evident that technology isn’t going away, so let’s make sure that we do our best to stay healthy and fit in our plugged in world.  Tech Neck doesn’t have to be a thing after all!

What Muscles Wish You Knew About Reversing Years of Damage

Posted May 9, 2016 by backsafe®
Categories: Back Injury, Backsafe, Carpal Tunnel, Injury prevention, Microbreaks, Sittingsafe, Stretching, Uncategorized

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woman-stretching-2Athletes stretch for top performance in their sports. This type of stretching is dynamic, meaning everything moves – the arms, legs, back and head. Athletes doing dynamic stretching move through the different stretches, but don’t hold them for more than a few seconds.

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Employees stretch to turn back time. This reverses the slow, steady damage done to muscles when they aren’t used properly.

“On the job, top speed is not so important, so static stretching is more helpful here,” says Dr. Rob Handelman, D.C. “It can maintain a person’s flexibility of the low back, shoulders, hands, arms, legs, ankles, and neck, which is lost over time due to repetitive motions and sustained postures.”

Dr. Handelman co-created the Backsafe® training program to improve employee well-being at work and at home by incorporating simple exercises to be done before and throughout the workday. The workplace can be a kitchen, a warehouse, plant, truck, car, office, hospital or an airplane.

The idea behind on-the-job static stretching is to reverse the position you’re in most of the day. Prolonged postures and repetitive activities (gripping, leaning forward, looking down much of the day) cause muscles or groups of muscles to shorten and deprive them of their normal full range of motion. They become tight, weakened and thus easier to injure.

“It doesn’t mean you’re going to get injured, just that you’re more vulnerable,” according to Dr. Handelman.

ladder_safety_falling_accidentThis result, from cumulative use and prolonged postures, happens over time, and differs from a single acute trauma event, such as falling from a height or a sudden impact.

Static stretches are of greatest use to workers since it is common in many occupations to have loss of flexibility in the hands, back, legs, and upper chest and shoulders.

When asked which job descriptions are at the greatest risk of developing short, tight, more easily injured muscles and joints, Dr. Handelman answered without hesitation, “Everybody that repeats movements often or maintains postures for a long time.”

“Since often they can’t change the job, what they can do is to return the muscles to their normal range of motion with stretching. They can permanently maintain a normal range of motion by doing static stretches and warmups before starting their job activity, and after a considerable number of job activities throughout the day.”

12-Surprising-Things-a-Flight-Attendant-Cant-Do-for-You-So-Stop-AskingFor example, upper extremity tightness and discomfort are common in flight attendants and manufacturing from using their hands often and while looking downward. Mechanics use tools constantly and can develop grip problems. Office personnel can experience over 250,000 muscle contractions just working at a computer on any given day.

Over time, the body believes the length of the muscles should be the current shortened position. What happens is the tight muscles lose strength and are weaker because they can’t contract or relax fully anymore, and on top of that are now more susceptible to injury.

“One should be able to straighten your elbows completely when placing your hands together behind your back. A worker who performs continuous lifting motions at work, where they lift but don’t straighten the arms, will cause the arm and chest muscles to shorten over time,” Dr. Handelman says.

By doing hand, wrist, chest and shoulder stretches, a worker can help to return the upper extremities to a full and more normal range of motion, thus less prone to experience a future painful injury.

There is some controversy about stretching and whether it should be dynamic or static, Dr. Handelman reveals. As noted above, dynamic stretching involves full body movement, using the legs and arms. Static stretching is when you stretch and hold.

“Since we are most often working with maintaining and returning joints and muscles to their normal full range of motion, static is the kind of on-the-job stretching we mostly teach in our  Backsafe® and Sittingsafe® Injury Prevention Programs.  That means stretching a muscle or group of muscles to their farthest point of motion without pain, and then holding it for 5 to 30 seconds,” he explains.

lab-tech-300x199.jpgHe recommends the Backsafe stretches for all job descriptions outside of those that require a sitting position while working. The Sittingsafe stretches are designed specifically for those that mainly sit while working including executives, office workers, laboratory, and dispatch personnel.

Static stretching can reverse any effects of cumulative, repetitive positions or motions done over and over at work, Handelman says.

“You want to  prevent tightness in your body, you want to maintain your mobility,  you want to protect your quality of life so you can do more things and have less chance of pain now and especially as we age.”

Interested in learning more about how you can use this information in your company?  Contact Dennis Downing, CEO of Future Industrial Technologies (FIT) about Backsafe & Sittingsafe workshops that can be delivered in your facility! 1-800-775-2225

(Rob McCarthy is a freelance writer and contributor to the Backsafe® newsletter.)

Microbreaks are Good for Mind & Body

Posted April 14, 2016 by backsafe®
Categories: Backsafe, Ergonomics, Increase production, Microbreaks, Sittingsafe, Stretching, Uncategorized

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Chances are you’re seated right now, hunched over a keyboard. hunched-over-keyboardIf you’ve spent most or all of your workday in this position, you are a candidate for fatigue and soreness starting at the neck and working down the back. Those are the postural muscles, and you should listen to them.

Postural muscles are responsible for maintaining an upright posture. These muscles tend to become tight rather easily, which can lead to pain. You can probably feel the postural muscles working as you read this. They are doing the heavy lifting of the head, the neck and the spine.

What those muscles need are frequent breaks. Not 15-minute ones, but a 1-2 minute microbreak to protect the body against the dangers of hours of constant sitting. Microbreaking done correctly can reduce strain on the neck, shoulders and spine. Correctly means taking microbreaks throughout the day, along with mandated 15-minute rest periods and a meal break.

Chair-bound employees don’t need to leave their desks to take one. A microbreak lasts anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes, and is meant to be taken as often as every 10 minutes. Microbreaks can reduce muscle fatigue by up to 50 percent in an eight-hour day, experts think.

Because of technology and automation, employees tend to overdo a single task. That can be typing on a keyboard, answering the phone, opening and sorting mail, or handling packages. neck-shoulderrestThey get on a roll, some call it “in the zone,” and their concentration is extremely high. A microbreak serves as a reminder not to stay seated or standing in one position for too long.

Try this now: Let your arms hang by your sides and gently shake your hands. Hold this position for 25-30 seconds. Breathing deeply and exhaling three or four times while your arms hang is a good relaxation technique to pair with this microbreak exercise. Our Sittingsafe® chart offers 13 exercises and recommendations for lowering fatigue and stress and feeling more energetic.

Stanford University researchers in the Environmental Health and Safety Department, who’ve studied the effects of prolonged sitting, have a message for those who spend their days chair-bound. The human body is always active when engaged in work tasks, even when seated. Frequent breaks can decrease the duration of a task and help lower the exposure to ergonomic injury risk, they advise.

Stanford’s ergonomic-wellness work led to a recommendation that employees make microbreaks a part of their workday. The Stanford team offered some ways how:
• Move the printer to another room, if possible, or away from the desk. This requires you to stand and walk over to the printer to get a printout.
• Stand when talking on the phone. A stand-up desk comes in handy for this task.
• Walk to the restroom or get a glass of water every hour. lxpu-1432506798-133948-full• Break up continuous computer time by checking phone messages and reading reports.
Microbreaks are preventative, not a cure for existing back and neck injuries. Paul Hooper, DC, writing in “Dynamic Chiropratic” noted that many conditions have multiple causes and multiple solutions. “It would appear that the use of microbreaks is one such part of the puzzle,” he said.

Other research on energy management at work shows that listening to music on a micro-break boosts energy levels and wards off fatigue, too. Stretching at the desk, walking to the water fountain, or listening to a music jam (on low volume, of course!), they all make a difference in how employees feel at their jobs and about their workplaces.

Make time in the day for microbreaks, and your body and mind will do the rest.

The Sittingsafe® card offers a variety of exercises and stretches that can be done right at the desk. The illustrated card explains 13 exercises to curb muscle and eye strain. The card is available from Backsafe for $1.25. Order by calling 1-800-775-2225 or online at www.backsafe.com.