Archive for the ‘Microbreaks’ category

Sitting…Ergonomics…and the Executive

May 22, 2017

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)

Dennis Downing, CEO

Future Industrial Technologies, Inc.

What Muscles Wish You Knew About Reversing Years of Damage

May 9, 2016

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

April 14, 2016

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.