Do you suffer from pain at work? How about headaches? How about discomfort or pain in your low back or between your shoulder blades? Or sharp pain at your elbow and/or wrist when you pick up your morning coffee or check your morning e-mail? Daily stretching of some key posture muscle groups may be just what you are looking for.
Your daily posture habits, work habits, physical fitness level, what you eat and drink, your age, gender, attitude and past medical history all determine your risk for the above musculoskeletal problems. The great news here is that will all of these areas we have a choice in the final outcome, with the exception of our gender.
Most of us spend our workday in a forward flexed position, with our shoulders rotated in, looking down to do our daily work tasks. Have you ever cradled your phone between your neck and shoulder while typing or doing other work tasks? Do you tend to lean or shift your weight to your left or right side while sitting or standing? How many of you cross your legs, or sit on your foot when you are sitting? Are you reaching with a fully extended arm to use your mouse, calculator or to reach the phone? When lifting, pushing or pulling, is your head down or up? Do you have to turn your head to the right or left to view your monitor when using the computer? Did you answer YES to any, some, most or all of these questions? If so, you may benefit from some simple stretches to reverse most of these posture stresses.
Frequent stretching is important to keep proper blood flow of nutrients to the working tissues. These should be done twice per workday, or up to every hour as needed per worker or job. They should never be forced or cause any pain. They should be carried out very gently and ideally be customized by a professional occupational or physical therapist to match job demands. Workers should be trained how to do them properly.
With a forward head posture, the lateral neck muscles face an excessive work demand over time and loose flexibility. The loss of flexibility will compress the blood supply and nerves passing through muscles on their way to the elbow, wrist and hand (the working arm). This reduced blood flow increases the risk for various musculoskeletal disorders.
Therefore, implementing a stretching program in the workplace has multiple benefits for the employer and the employee:
- Increased physical efficiency and performance of everyday tasks.
- Decreased risk of injury.
- Increased quality and quantity of joint synovial fluid (less joint wear and tear).
- Increased neuro muscular coordination.
- Reduces muscular soreness (fatigue).
- Improved muscular balance and postural awareness.
- Decreased risk of low back, neck, elbow and wrist pain.
- Increased blood supply and nutrients to muscles, tendons and joints.
- Reduced Stress.
- Enhanced enjoyment of everyday lift.
There are many businesses and industries in Southern Illinois who have implemented “stretching in the workplace.” Being proactive about the health and safety of employees can lead to a successful, productive workforce.