Simple Workplace Exercises to keep you Pain-Free

Exercises

Good posture does not simply mean sitting up straight. Slouching over a computer keyboard all day can create a painful chain reaction throughout your body that can result in shoulder, neck or back pain, if not a combination of all three. Unfortunately, we don’t often feel the warning signs of this gradual wear-and-tear, we only feel the pain at the end of the process.

If sitting is part of your everyday, even if you try to lead an active lifestyle, then you should attempt to combine stretching exercises into your working days or evening: Stretching and Yawning don’t count! Browse the following list, and see if you can spare a few minutes daily to address your posture problems.

Back and Chest Stretching

To stretch your back muscles lie on your back, with knees bent at 90 degrees, and place your calves on the seat of a chair. Straighten your arms out from the shoulders with your palms up. Relax, breathing deeply, letting your low back settle into the floor. Hold the position for 5 minutes.

Ensure to stretch your chest: While in the same position. Lace your fingers, palms together, with your arms extended above your chest toward the ceiling. Extend your arms, keeping your elbows straight, over your head to the floor behind you. Repeat 30 times with a steady, controlled movement, and don’t forget to breathe.

Back to your back. Lie on your back with your feet on the wall and your knees bent less than 90 degrees (Your ‘glutes’ should only be about four to six inches from wall and knees almost touching chest). Lace your fingers behind your head to support your neck. Keep your elbows back while looking at the ceiling. Exhale as you use your stomach muscles to lift your shoulders, elbows and head off the floor then lower. Perform this for 1 minute.

Leg and Knee Exercises

The kneeling hip-flexor stretch: Kneel (preferably on a padded floor). Bring your right knee into a 90 degree angle and push your left leg back so it’s at an angle where you feel stretch in the front of your hip. Keep your legs parallel to each other and place your hands on your right knee and let your hips sink forward to the floor, keeping your upper body straight. Do not lean forward. Hold for 1 minute and switch legs.

Supine hip-flexor stretch: Lie on your back with your right leg bent and resting on a chair at a 90 degree angle. Place your left leg straight on the floor, keeping your toes pointed up so your knee and foot do not roll out. Place your arms straight out from your shoulders with your palms up.

Breathe deeply and relax your body. Remain in this position for 10 minutes, then repeat on your other side.

The ‘Air bench’: Sit against the wall with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent at 90 degrees, heels straight under or slightly in front (not behind) of your knees. Keep your feet pointing straight ahead, push your lower back into wall and keep pressure on your heels. Press your shoulders back, keeping your head up, and relax your shoulders, neck, arms and hands. Hold for 90 seconds.

Of course, if you start to feel any discomfort, gently move yourself out of the position.

The Right Equipment

You can always address pain and suspected injury due to stress and bad posture by investing in the right working equipment. Check into the right ergonomic keyboards and, if you are serious, search for ‘Mechanical Key keyboards’ to give your fingers a break from their own stress!

Is it Time to ‘Switch’ your Keyboard?

worker stress funny

The more that you investigate about keyboards, in order to find the ‘perfect one for you’, the more detailed info ration you will find. Pretty early on in this process, it will become obvious to you that a keyboard’s keys, and the mechanisms below them, tucked out of site of the users, are the most important components that you will need to learn more about. The real job is learning about the switches below those keys.

The Finger points

After all, these are the points that your body actually touches any keyboard. Your fingers are the conduits that your brain signals communicate through. It doesn’t matter if you write blog posts, specialist technical journals, or simple e-mails. If you are at all uncomfortable, it is your fingers that will feel it first. Any kind of pain or discomfort you feel at the contact point will soon grow into nerve pain through your palms, wrists, arms and back.

Whether or not you are investigating moving beyond the ‘off the rack’ keyboard that comes with your working or home computer, or interested on what different products are on the market, eventually you will look at the different kind of physical keys that there are on the market, and you will be faced with a decision: Do I buy Rubber-Domed or Mechanical switches?

The Rubber-Domed Switch

The vast majority of keyboards on the market today feature a Rubber or Silicon dome that sits directly under the key that you see, connect to the ‘works’ that lie under the keyboard, and between keying action and the letter appearing in screen.

The visible part of the key is called the Key Cap. These are relatively expensive items that must deliver a long life. However, it is the switch below it that receives all of the trauma and shock of being pressed – or hit! – Repeatedly over the life of the product. A much more cost effective method is to protect this switch with a simple rubber dome that sits under the Key Cap, and suffers the repeated shock of action time and time again.

The differences in the shape and thickness of the domes that the mass producer of your keyboard uses determines the travel distance, resistance, and tactile feedback of the switch.

Being Mechanical

Mechanical key-switches are more elaborate and made in a better quality than other key-switch types.  In this system, each key has its own independent key-switch mechanism that will register when a key is pressed.

In most cases the key is actuated (the keystroke is generated, and sent to the computer) halfway through the key travel distance. For example, the key may be capable of traveling 3 mm before hitting the bottom of the key-well, but the keystroke is generated after 1.5 mm.

As there is no requirement to travel the full key travel distance when being operated,  typists enjoy the luxury of not pressing keys fully down, reducing the constant jarring action on fingertips when ‘bottoming out’ and associated unnecessary muscle action. Additionally, the constant use if these types of keys offer increasing resistance after the keystroke is generated, encouraging the user to stop pressing down the keycap and instead move on to the next keystroke. Finally, key-caps snap back to the starting position (i.e. up) more quickly than other key-switch types, facilitating faster typing speeds.

Of course, Mechanical key-switch keyboards are more expensive when initially bought, but their working life is much longer. Together with the lowered risk of injury caused by repetitive stress injury, you may want to investigate a keyboard with mechanical switches for a more pleasant working experience.

Disability Prevention Practices: Making the Most of Your Space

messy-office

If it’s time to re-organize your work-space, either the layout of an individual cubicle, a busy shared space, or even a home office – otherwise known as “The Spare Bedroom” –  start asking the following questions: What space do I have? What do I need in a workspace? What do I want from my workspace? Here are a few things that we have learned:

Let It Go

Firstly you should stop cramming your workstation with everything that you need for every possible eventuality. Many workers take far too much on themselves, with multiple projects open at the same time and too much paperwork on their desks, all to satisfy a muddled, ongoing daily plan. This results in too tight a working space, shrinking it to a crowded, overbearing environment, and making you force yourself into too uncomfortable a space for productive work. Learn to use your computer more, and paperwork less.

You should be able to work in a logical, ordered manner that focuses your concentration on one area. It stops you having to turn your head continually or stretching too far repeatedly – both bad habits that affect your working posture.

Are you Sitting Comfortably?

Are you comfortable when you work? You should be able to hinge at the waist easily, sit squarely, with both feet flat on the floor, supporting your lower back, reaching your computer keyboard without stretching, and without splaying your elbows out either side into thin air.

While you are looking at your keyboard, check out some of the new ones on the market that feature columnar key arrangement, so that you aren’t using staggered keys. You will find that your fingers lay and work much easier on these keyboards than on the more traditional computer keyboard. These keyboards are truly ergonomic, create less wrist-hinge, and take up less desk space to save you stretching for your mouse.

Where is Your Storage?

If it is possible to have storage above your head, use this to its maximum. It is far too easy to use files in lower desk drawers that force you to turn, hinge, reach and pull heavy items out of the usual stacking desk drawers when you are in an uncomfortable, unsupported position.

Bu using higher storage that is at eye-level usually requires you to stand and retrieve items while you are facing straight, your arms are in front of you, and you are anchored in a better position to take weight.

If you must have storage for items that are too unwieldy to store and be available when you require them, store them in another area, away from the desk. This forces you to stand up from your desk, and walk somewhere to complete this task. Once again, this leads to a better lifting posture that cuts down on the twisting and weight transference that lead to many workplace injuries.

The Home Office

Who would have thought that we have reached a point in time where everything we do is now at a desk, or in the palm of our hands? Now we are working, playing, communicating, and researching at a desk through the same piece of equipment.

Because your Home Office is part of your living conditions, it tends to look different from your work area: More elegant, bigger, more ornate and plusher. Ask yourself the same questions as above, when thinking ergonomically. Does it do the job without causing strains in your lower back, shoulders, or wrists? You would be surprised how much time you actually spend at it – and this time is growing annually. If your copies of Nineteenth century Lawyer’s chairs and Partner Desks look fantastic but cause you pain, then it’s time to get rid of them, and get something more ergonomic.

We all spend a lot of time sitting down, staring at a screen, referring to documentation, and lifting and turning. There are great computer peripheries and office equipment to make your days and evenings more enjoyable, less painful, and a lot less stressful. You owe it to yourself to make your online time as comfortable as possible.

Do you need a workplace Ergonomic Program?

Yes, and Here’s Why….

Have you ever finished a day’s work at your desk, and stretched to relieve some pesky back or shoulder pain? Have your wrists ever felt uncomfortably locked in one position for an extended period? Have you looked forward to a loving shoulder-rub from your loved one when you finish work, because you have a nagging ache in them?

Although these complaints seem small, every day, and trivially “niggly”, they could be symptoms of a much larger problem: Irreversible nerve damage caused by a poorly designed workstation, bad body posture, or a lack of support to your wrists and hands.

Workplace Stress Facts

The World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr18/en/) reported in 2006 that approximately two million people die worldwide each year as a result of occupational incidents and work related illnesses or injuries. Additionally, over 268 million annual workplace accidents result in an average of three lost workdays per accident, as well as 160 million new cases of work-related illness each year. That was 8 years ago, and today thousands more people slave away at a computer keyboard for many more hours every day.

In Canada, worker’s compensation boards routinely pay billions of Dollars due to workplace absences, and reduced productivity – more than costs concerning Cancer or Cardio-Vascular disease.

Everyday Pain

These incidents include traumatic events including vehicles, falls, and the results from occupational events outside of the everyday administration environment. However, the stresses to those who live their working lives at a computer keyboard are a ‘silent killer’ that take multiple years to form. They have no reversible cure and not only leave workers in constant pain, but increase disability costs associated with work absenteeism and a rising prevalence of chronic disability in the population that contribute to reduced workplace productivity.

Is there a way for us to reduce the amount of payouts, make workers happier, experience less pain, grow a happier, healthier workplace and stop the slide of productivity?

Yes and the answer is Ergonomics.

Prevention and Collaboration

Even for those that aren’t working in the factory, on the lot, or in dangerous occupations, small changes in working style, office equipment, and working time can answer all of these problems, as well as lower the stress levels of busy interior working environments shared by many individuals. After all, if you have one worker that is short-tempered due to personal pain, how much of this negativity is being spread across the entire office?

In fact, there are guidelines already in place from Governments, Insurers, Unions, and Health Professionals that are readily available at no cost that show a spectrum of informative plans to make your office environment a more pleasant and less painful place to spend your day. It’s valuable to take the time to study these free resources to see what can be easily achieved.

Ergonomic Programs.

In every office there are similar collaborator networks that can help you: From management to human resources, disability management and trainers. Employees need to access these resources. Even those that work in a home office environment, alone with no-one to hear their pain, need to address posture issues, office equipment, computer keyboards, and do whatever they can to ensure they have a Truly Ergonomic workplace.

It’s time to take a proactive approach to support disability prevention, ergonomically planned workplaces, and to ensure that that small twinge that is hardly worth mentioning, or a very small shoulder inflammation that requires a rub occasionally, isn’t a sign of something bigger. Grow your working productivity, lower your stress, be happier at work, feel less pain, and save yourself from undocumented stress problems that will mount over time and cause major life-long problems later in life.