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.

Driving…Backsafe® Style!

Posted January 5, 2015 by backsafe®
Categories: Backsafe, Injury prevention, safety tips

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Did you know that 80% of the US population will experience a back incident at some time in their life?  This is an extraordinary number.  The good news is that many are preventable.

Most back and shoulder injuries are the result of an accumulation of small traumas to the area versus a sudden or acute trauma. Thus if we can eliminate micro traumas on our back and shoulders we can prevent discomfort, pain and life altering injuries.

Here are a few tips to prevent micro trauma in an activity we do countless times a week–driving a car!  We hop in and out of the vehicle without considering the innocent stresses we are placing on our body.  Give some of these a whirl and see how they can make a simple positive difference!

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Entering a vehicle

1.  Entering a car

  • Slide in sideways with no twist OR
  • Sit on the edge of the seat; swing both knees around, avoiding a twist in the low back.

2.  Sitting in a car

  • Lumbar support (low back)
  • Reclining slightly
  • Knees higher than hips (optional)
  • Rear pockets flat (avoid thick wallets)
  • Headrest raised almost to the top of driver’s head
  • Wrist to reach top of steering wheel with arm straight—without bending body forward
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Sitting in a vehicle

3.  Exiting a car

  • Push the seat back (optional)
  • Raised steering wheel (optional)
  • Swivel both legs out at the same time
  • Push out of the car with arm support
  • Note:  If exiting a van or SUV, you may slide out one leg at a time; do not twist

© Future Industrial Technologies 2014

Reflecting on Personal Cost of an Injury

Posted April 23, 2013 by backsafe®
Categories: Backsafe, Injury prevention, Parenting, Uncategorized

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iStock_000003248402XSmallThis week ended on a revelatory note for me.

As the Quality Control Manager here at  F.I.T., the Backsafe® Injury Prevention company, I’ve read our various articles and newsletters about debilitating back pain from sprain/strain injuries and wondered about it. I’ve tried to imagine what it might be like to have an injury that devastating. Of course my imaginings are never close to the real thing.

I have a fairly sedentary job and I’m a mom of an almost two-year old. I don’t consider myself at high risk for workplace injuries. I still try to incorporate the Backsafe® stretches, lifts and safety precautions whenever and wherever possible. In fact, I was originally going to write about how often I bend and lift things during the day. I was even going to count how many times a day I picked up my daughter (almost 30 lbs now), her toys, placed her into and out of the car, stayed bent over for a prolonged period of time (bath time – the worst!). That idea quickly dissipated. You try keeping count when you are running after little miss funny pants!

Instead, I had an injury of my own this week (not by choice, of course). Luckily it was relatively quickly remedied and not back related. But it had quite an impact on me – not simply because it was excruciatingly painful, but because of how much I was not able to do. How much I was not able to be there for my kiddo, play with her, laugh with her, or even smile for her sometimes.  Not to mention how much her good little heart was trying to help me, though there wasn’t much she could do (we decided hugs were best). It was heart wrenching!

Now that I am well again, and can think a bit more clearly, I can look at and fully appreciate the idea of prevention. It was the accumulation of many little things that led up to my injury, much like sprains and strains in the workplace. Prevention is a novel idea with regard to workplace injuries. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have never had an injury to begin with? How much time, money, energy, and upset could be spared by completely avoiding that situation? Sadly, it sometimes takes an incident to bring the idea of prevention to the forefront.

It’s always good to be reminded of the blessings we have. Backsafe training is one of those blessings for me. To me it’s one thing that I feel empowered to do to keep myself healthy and present for the ones that are most important to me. That is a priceless value in my eyes.

By Julie Villinsky, Quality Control Manager, Future Industrial Technologies

Bad Knees and Lifting Objects

Posted June 6, 2012 by backsafe®
Categories: Injury prevention, Safe lifting, safety tips, Uncategorized

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“My knees hurt.  It’s hard for me to lift properly…”  Knee issues are very common but there are ways to protect your back AND be kind to your knees when lifting at work or at home!

While teaching over 1 million employees how to prevent back and shoulder injuries we often times have to teach alternative lifting techniques.

The facts of the matter are some people have knee pain or are in some state of de-conditioning and can’t perform textbook biomechanical movements.

Unfortunately if our legs don’t allow us to go to the floor to pick up a box, we end up bending over at the waist and using our backs to lift instead of our legs.

The “proper” way to lift is:

  • Keep your back straight
  • Head up
  • Use your legs to elevate

Keeping your back “straight” maintains your spine’s natural curves and protects your disks and other aspects of your back’s anatomy.  This is accomplished by keeping your head up when lifting.

Supported Lift

Safety Tips For Bad Knees

  • For heavier items, such as a box:  turn it on one of its ends first to raise the box’s center of gravity so you don’t have to stoop as low.  Also, if you are yourself stacking or storing items, put the heavier ones on top so a deep squat will be unnecessary when retrieving it later.

    Golfer’s Lift

  • Lifting something with a handle, such as a suitcase, grocery bags, laundry bag, etc?  Try a supported lift.  Grab the handle and while lifting, support your weight using the other hand on your thigh.
  • Lighter items like a small grocery bag or even a stray sock, you can use a golfer’s lift.

Hopefully these safety tips will help preserve your knees and your back.  Let us know how they work out for you!

Backsafe® Driving or Are We There Yet?

Posted April 26, 2012 by backsafe®
Categories: Backsafe, Stretching, Uncategorized

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Summer is just around the corner and of course that means many families are planning vacations.  Vacations often involve road trips—traveling longer distances than usual.  Add in some extra summer activities and a stressed out and painful back can result!

Here are a few tips to consider when spending a lot of time in your vehicle:

  • Any sustained posture for long periods of time isn’t ideal for your body.  Changing your seat position from time to time can help prevent irritating discomfort.
  • At least every 2 hours get out of your car and move around a little to help get your blood flowing and to relieve stress from being in a sustained sitting posture.
  • When getting out of the car, do not twist especially while bent at the waist.
  • Immediately after getting out of your car, do the following simple stretches:

Back extensions: these reverse the sitting posture, thus relieving stress.

Chest extension:  When driving your arms are holding on to the steering wheel.  The chest extension is the reverse posture to this and can give you much relief–and even help you to breathe more deeply.

Hamstring stretch: When we sit, our hamstrings shorten.  Tight hamstrings can affect our backs.  Stand approximately 3 feet from your car with your legs straight–shoulder width apart.  With your hands on the car for support, bend forward at the waist with your head level, looking straight ahead.  This will help your hamstrings return to normal length and help protect your back.

Take advantage of those ubiquitous rest areas to let the kids out and run off some pent-up energy.  Let the children join in on the stretches.  Each family member could even take a turn leading the stretch session!  You will all arrive at your destination with less stress, more energy and family vacation experiences already underway!

Need a handy laminated reminder card of these stretches plus a few others?  It even folds up to a convenient wallet size!  F.I.T. has them in stock!  Check out the Backsafe® website for more info.

It’s SPRINGtime! Get out to the garden…safely!

Posted April 11, 2012 by backsafe®
Categories: Backsafe, Ergonomics, Gardening, Injury prevention, Shoveling, Stretching, Uncategorized

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It is that time of year when the veil of winter gives way to sunshine and the growing season.

Digging, wheel barrowing, lifting bags of soil amendments, etc., even for the well conditioned athlete, can if not done correctly, cause back pain and injury.

 

 

Tips for shoveling:

Have the right tools

Digging with a proper shovel can make a big difference.  Make sure you use a shovel that is light and has a long handle so you can shovel in a more upright position.  Remember, not only are you lifting the dirt, but you have the weight of the shovel and yes, even your arms that contribute to the resulting force on your spine.

Know your spine

You have 3 curves in your spine.  When shoveling try to maintain those curves, in other words, keep your back as straight as you can.  Bending at the waist while lifting a shovel full of soil puts undue pressure on your low back.  A trick to help you is when lifting, keep your head up.  You don’t have to look at the sky, just keep your head in a neutral or straight forward posture.  This will help keep your back straight and make you use your bigger and more powerful leg muscles more.  Lastly, never twist when shoveling.  Always aim your “drop” zone at either the 10 or 2 o’clock position.  Never shovel to your side (9 or 3 o’clock position) or behind you.

Working around the yard can be invigorating and even good for your muscles if you do it correctly.  In fact, when done correctly can be a good physical activity.

After You’re Done…

A thorough stretch can’t be understated in terms of benefits!  You’ve worked your body hard, it likes a moment to regroup!  Take a moment to survey the effects you’ve just created, take some deep breaths and stretch those muscles to help avoid soreness the next day.


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