Posted tagged ‘Injury prevention’

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.

Bad Knees and Lifting Objects

June 6, 2012

“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!

Spitting Cobras lead to carpal tunnel! Wait! What?

June 11, 2010

Where are the muscles that move your fingers and why is it important to know?  They are in your forearm.  These muscles transition into tendons that go through the wrist joint and attach to your finger bones—in layman’s terms.

 “Keep your wrists straight while typing” is a key principle in our office ergonomics program—Sittingsafe®.  You want to minimize friction and resistance in your wrist area to prevent accumulated repetitive stress. 

 This is why we don’t want you using those darn “feet” in the back of the keyboard!  When these are utilized, the back of your keyboard is raised, which in turn, forces your wrists to bend (spitting cobra style!).  If anything, the front of your keyboard should be raised so that your wrists can stay straight.  Your keyboard is at the correct height when your hands are slightly below your elbows when typing. 

 F.I.T. Rule:  “Keep wrists straight” and not just when typing.

 We have helped prevent surgeries for those that work on computers, buff floors, use jackhammers, and in countless manufacturing jobs.  Hand and wrist pain can alter your lifestyle considerably.  Use these tips to help keep you happy, healthy and in the game!

 Let us know if this helps!

June is NATIONAL EMPLOYEE WELLNESS month!

June 2, 2010

Did you know that June is National Employee Wellness Month?  F.I.T. has been preventing back injuries within corporate America now for 17 years by imbuing a wellness approach to workers’ comp cost abatement.

 We have focused our programs (Backsafe® and Sittingsafe®) on the belief that in order to prevent work related injuries, you must also include how to prevent off work injuries too.  After all, your spine and other body parts register physical stress no matter what you are doing.

The first thing we accomplish in our training is to establish a “personal wellness attitude”.  There are too many instances in our society where people are treated as victims of their environment.  Aches and pains are explained as “it’s just part of the job” or part of the “aging process”. 

 In a recent Sittingsafe Ergonomic Workshop, one employee stated:  “it is about time someone told me how I can help prevent aches and pains.”

 Employees do not want to be in pain.  Teaching people that they can have a say in how they feel is very empowering.

 A simple tip that can make a huge difference to those who work on a computer at home or work is the following:

Never reach for your keyboard!  Your arms can weigh up to 12-15% of your body weight.  Keep your elbows by your side while typing.  This will help prevent neck and should discomfort and may even help you get rid of dull, tension related headaches!

 Have you thought about strategies to enhance your employees’ wellness?  If you need some help, let us know.  We have years of experience in industry across the board.

How to Lift a Child Safely…

April 9, 2010

On a recent visit to the grocery store I saw a mother lifting her young child from the car seat—specifically the middle, back seat.

 My back ached just watching her bend, twist and lift all while being in a compromised position.

 Here is a useful tip to help prevent a back injury while lifting your child from their car seat:

 If your child is old enough to help, invite your child to participate.  Lifting a 2, 3, 4 year old child from the center back seat without the child’s participation calls for the parent to reach while lifting, which is unsafe even with relatively light weight involved.  Try this next time.  When taking the child out of the car, step into the car with one leg, lean your body towards your child and ask him/her to reach and hold onto your neck.  Having the child reach towards you allows you to keep your back straight, your arms close to your body and with your child initiating the motion this helps decrease the amount of force you need to exert to lift your child.  Keep your head up, arms close to your body and never twist.

 An added tip that is very beneficial particularly if you have driven for any length of time: always do a quick back extension when you get out of the car before attempting to lift anything or anyone.  This helps to prepare your body for exertion and feels really good!

 Coming soon…suggestions about children’s backpacks!

 We love feedback!  Please comment, question, suggest future topics…it’s all good!