Sent to us by Amelia Wood
It can be difficult for office workers to maintain upright posture throughout the day. Chairs, desk positions, height, weight and preexisting medical conditions can all cause employees to slump into a collapsible position. Although it is incredibly common, sitting in the hunched position can lead to serious health problems.
Improper posture compresses different areas of the spine which can prohibit blood flow to the vertebrae in your spinal column. A lack of blood supply can cause degeneration of the intervertebral disc and can eventually lead to back pain.
Tension headaches, TMJ and chronic pain in the neck and shoulders are also symptoms of poor posture. Pressure from bad posture can also cause fluid loss in the spine, which can result in structural changes of connective tissue and the distortion commonly referred to as “hunchback.”
Sedentary Work Day
The longer we sit (even with appropriate posture) the greater our chances for cardiovascular disease as well as colon and breast cancers. One recent study, published in the Lancet medical journal, compared a sedentary lifestyle to smoking in terms of preventable disease. The study also identified the behavior as having a negative impact on public health worldwide. Professionals recommend exercise of 15-30 minutes every day, but even those who exercise for 15-30 minutes a day are within the national average of Americans who spend the rest of the day in a sedentary state.
Forearm, wrist and hand discomfort are common symptoms of performing repetitive tasks such as typing and using a mouse. Eyestrain, though not serious, often occurs after working at a computer for long periods of time. However, eyestrain could indicate an underlying condition that has gone untreated.
The Best Remedy
The most effective way to combat the pains of a desk job is to take breaks throughout the day. In some cases, breaks have been shown to increase productivity; and even with less time dedicated to work, taking breaks does not affect productivity negatively.
You might be surprised to discover that there are many different types of breaks. No type of break has been proven universally more effective than another.
Micropauses (15 seconds) – When taken every 10 minutes, micropauses can reduce end-of-shift fatigue by 50%.
Microbreaks (30 seconds to 5 minutes) – Forearm, wrist and hand discomfort can be eliminated by adding 5 minutes breaks into each hour of the work day.
Breaks (5-15 minutes) – It has been suggested that the best length for infrequent rest pauses is 6 minutes every 80 minutes. For frequent breaks, consider taking 10 minute breaks each hour to promote worker comfort and accuracy.
It might take a few days to decide on a break plan, and there are some software programs out there that can help you (or your entire team) keep a schedule. RSIGuard, a PC software program, is one of the best. It suggests breaks based on work intensity and natural rest patterns and during breaks RSIGuard plays videos of suggested stretches. Breaker is a free customizable work break timer that you can also use. For Macs, Stretch Break is compatible.
Make the Most of your Break
- Learn to juggle or teach someone else to juggle. (No, seriously, it forces you to strengthen your posture and flex your wrist muscles.)
- Stretch at your desk. There are a lot of YouTube videos that offer suggestions for stretching at the desk.
- Meditate or breathe deeply. If you have a minute or two, check iTunes for a Podcast that will help you break away from work
- Take a walk.
- Get a drink of water.
- Chat with a co-worker.
Remember, taking breaks will benefit your body, but they are also necessary to maintain a healthy work mentality.
Amelia Wood is a blogger and freelance writer with a background in medical coding and billing. She loves to offer advice about health and wellness, especially in an office environment. Direct any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.