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Ergonomic Life Essentials in the Office:
Because many people spend almost half of all of their waking hours sitting at a desk, it is important that the chair, desk and other equipment help one's body maintain good posture and alignment. A healthy work station involves being aware of your seating, keyboard and mouse, computer monitor position and glare, telephone position, feet position, lighting and proper positioning of your work. It is critical to evaluate the proper set up of your work environment because it is often the cause of most repetitive stress injuries. An improper chair position, cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder or straining your neck to look at your computer monitor is not a big deal every once in a while, but when you do the same repetitive motions for several hours a day, several days a week, several weeks a month and so on, you will find that your body eventually has to give and in many cases will suffer pain, discomfort, poor posture and spinal disc damage. Unfortunately, most people don't correlate these problems to their day-to-day activity because they think it has to be caused by a specific traumatic event. That's just not the case.
The basics of a healthy ergonomic workstation include a bio-mechanically correct chair to sit in. It is best if it is adjustable to support your unique height and curves. These products while they can be expensive are an investment in your health if you sit at your desk often. A great new cost effective desk chair is an exercise ball that sits on a stand. These are terrific and very affordable. These chairs actually help you strengthen your core muscles while sitting on them. It's like a workout while you're working. Sometimes, however there are products out there that look very technologically cool and it is hard to find a balance between trendy and appropriate.
1. Adjust chair height properly. Adjust your chair height so that your feet are flat on the floor, with your thighs parallel to the ground and knees at a 90 degree angle. An approximation of the correct height can be found by standing facing your chair, and raising the seatpan to just below your kneecap. If you are too short to have your feet flat on the floor, you should place a footrest under your feet and adjust the chair properly from there.
2. Set chair depth. The back of your knees should fall 2 inches (5 cm) from the end of the seatpan, giving room for three fingers between the back of your leg and the chair.
3. Align backrest It should press comfortably against your back and follow the curves of your back. If your chair will not adjust to the proper setting, you can use a towel or a back support cushion to make it fit better.
4. Set armrests Allow your elbows to form a 90 degree angle with your hands on your keyboard. Take care that your elbows are not winged out, but are at a comfortable, fairly vertical alignment. Your arms should be parallel to the ground and your wrists in a neutral position. If you have a wrist rest, do not use it while typing. It is fine to rest your wrists there when not typing, but when typing your hands should be floating over the keyboard.
5. Flatten keyboard on the desk. If there is a setting that lifts the back of the keyboard, do not extend it.
6. Place mouse near keyboard . Do not use a wrist rest on a mouse pad. Although it may seem like a good idea, it has been shown to increase a person's risk of Carpal Tunnel syndrome.
7. Adjust height of monitor. Place the monitor so that the entire screen sits below eye level. The average computer is designed for someone the size of the typical 25 year old man. It is likely that you are not this exact, "ideal" size, so make any necessary adjustments. First it was great when computer monitors went from taking up so much desk space to the new flat panels but they are still on the desk taking up space and don't have too many ways to adjust their position to best fit a person's work station. There are a variety of computer monitor arms that can get your monitor off your desk. It is completely adjustable so you can move it around where you want to, when you want to. It's a brilliant idea.
8. Arrange items within reach. Place your phone, writing equipment, books and other frequently used items within easy reach from where you sit. You should not need to stretch to reach frequently used objects.
9. Use a headset. If you talk on the phone regularly and for long periods of time, a headset is a great tool to prevent headaches, stiff necks and sore shoulders. If you really want a new and healthy experience, invest in a cordless headset. Being able to stand up, walk around and use your hands while talking on the phone is not only healthier, it helps you be even more productive.
Some Exercises that can energize and facilitate relaxation and well-being:
With all stretches, it is important to only move in a comfortable zone of movement, just to the point of tension, not pain and to hold the stretches for at least 10 seconds without bouncing.
Eye stretches Keeping head straight, look out of the corners of your eye to the right, then to the left, then down and finally up. Don't move your head just your eyeballs. Don't hurry. Incorporate relaxation breathing. (Example: Breathe in deeply through your nose as you look right, breathe out through your mouth as you bring you eyes back to forward or neutral position). Keep your neck and shoulder relaxed throughout the stretching session.
Wrist stretches Bend your right wrist down while applying light tension to the top of the right hand with your other hand if needed. Then, turn the right arm so the right palm is facing up. Bend the fingers down and away from the palm with the fingers open and relaxed. You can apply a light tension **NOT PAIN** with your other hand across the base of the fingers and upper palm area for more stretch. Repeat with the left hand and wrist.
Shoulder rolls Sit or stand maintaining good posture. Roll your shoulders backwards and hold. Reach behind the lower back with both arms and interlocking the fingers will allow for a fuller stretch of the chest area. Roll the shoulders forward; extend the arms out in front at shoulder level with the fingers interlocked and palms facing out. This will stretch the upper back.
Neck stretches To stretch the muscles that rotate, flex and extend your neck, slowly turn your head as far to the right as is comfortable and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat to the left. Next, drop your chin gently toward your chest. Never push on your head with your hands! To stretch the muscles that move your neck laterally, drop your right ear toward your right shoulder and hold. Repeat to the left.
Hamstring stretch To stretch your hamstrings (upper back of the leg) while seated, sit back in a chair with the lower back supported. Place your hands under the right knee area and slowly lift up the leg with knee bent toward the chest. Repeat with the left leg.
Lower leg and ankle stretch While seated, first extend or point the right toes and foot straight ahead. Hold the stretch (you may place the upper most toe area on the floor for support). Then, place the back of the right heel on the floor and pull toes and upper foot toward the front of the lower leg and hold for a calf stretch. Repeat with the left lower leg and foot area.
Quadriceps "tense and relax" exercise. Sit up straight in a chair that properly supports the lower back while maintaining good posture with your feet flat on the floor. Extend the right lower leg out and up until your right leg is straight; hold for 2-3 seconds while contracting the quadriceps muscle (front of thigh muscle). Then, relax the quadriceps muscle and slowly lower the leg to the floor. Repeat with the left leg.
Seated Lower back/abdominal "tense and relax" exercise. Sit up straight in a chair with the lower back supported and feet flat on the floor. Relax your hands and arms in your lap. Contract (tighten) the upper and lower abdominal muscles as you breathe in deep through your nose (this will push the lower back against the chair support). Hold contraction for 2-3 seconds, then relax as you exhale through your mouth.
If there is a concern or specific question about any of these exercises, don't hesitate to give us a call to discuss what you are feeling. By fitting some of these stretches with relaxation breathing into your daily schedule, you can enhance your strength and increase your energy while warding off back and neck pain.