We truly believe the first step of preventing pain and injury or achieving optimal health, is first to understand how pain, injury and poor health occurs in the body.
When we sit for long periods, we tend to lose our discipline and slouch, look down with a very poor head posture, and we forget to stand up, walk around and stretch to keep good blood flow.
Below are a few steps you can take while at your desk. This will help with your posture and desk sitting discipline that, in turn, will result in less low back pain.
The word ‘ergonomics’ comes from the Greek words ‘ergon’ which means work, and ‘nomos’ which means natural laws. Ergonomics can thus be defined simply as the natural laws of work. More specifically, ergonomics is the scientific study of designing the job and workplace to fit the worker, keeping in mind their capabilities and limitations. Ergonomics combines the knowledge of other scientific disciplines like anatomy and physiology, bio-mechanics, engineering, psychology, and statistics to ensure that workplace designs complement the strengths of people and minimize the effects of their limitations.
Ergonomics is also known as human factors, and the terms are often used interchangeably. Ergonomists and human factors specialists seek to understand how a workplace, product, tool, or system can be best designed to fit the people who need to use it. The goal is to apply this knowledge to improve the system, human performance, and productivity, while also focusing on the health, safety, and well-being of the individuals involved.
It is important to build micro breaks into the daily routine. As such, Stanford also provides the following ideas for making breaks a part of the workday: Move the printer to an area that requires you to stand up and walk to get a printout. Stand up when talking on the phone (the use of a stand-up desk is also helpful), Go to the restroom or get a cup of coffee/water (frequently; remember the glass of water every hour), Break up continuous computer time with tasks such as checking phone messages, reading reports, etc.
Our favorite intervention is the Micro-Break Card (see left). Make sure to implement these micro-breaks every 60 minutes.
Body Positioning and Awareness
The key to injury prevention for the spine is to avoid improper positioning and movements that will cause undue stress. The Sternum Up, Power Zone and Abdominal Bracing will keep the spine in neutral, allow for proper bending at the hips and protect the spine. Here are easy ways you can implement this into your activities of daily living.
Sternum Up– Keeping the sternum up automatically sets the body into good posture and maintains:
a. Neutral Spine: Maintaining good spinal alignment decreases the stress placed on the spine and discs.
b. Hip Hinging: Bending at the hips, and not the low back, decreases the stress placed on the low back and increases strength & power.
Power Zone- The zone that will optimize lifting strength and injury reduction.
a. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle, and you are in the “Primary Power Zone.”
b. The area up to the shoulders and down to the hips is acceptable.
c. The more you can work in the “power zone” the less fatigue on your body.
Abdominal Bracing- When all of your core muscles work together, a “Super Stiffness” occurs, and all 3 layers of the abdominal wall are activated to protect and stabilize the spine and discs. Without bending forward, contract the abdominal muscles (like you are about the get punched in your gut – feel them tighten with one hand) and the buttock muscles (as if you are holding in a bowel movement). You will feel the lower back muscles contract (with the other hand) when you contract your abs and buttocks.
Vladimir Janda, a highly notarized Medical Physician, was the first physician to define posture into the different “crossed syndromes.” In 1979 he classified postural distortion into the three different syndromes; upper crossed lower crossed and layered syndromes. Based upon these syndromes, postural corrections were theorized to correct these musculoskeletal imbalances.
Corrective exercises are typically spine-sparing strategies that include movements and stretches to correct postural distortions and musculoskeletal imbalances. This would include concepts like taking micro-breaks very often at work to stretch for 20 seconds, look 20 yards away at an object to readjust the muscles in your eyes from staring at a computer screen. Other strategies for corrective exercise might include, an overhead arm reaches, Brugger’s postural relief, sitting to standing, spine mobilization exercises, and wall angels. These exercises can help open up the posture from sitting in a forward flexed position for hours at a time. Functional rehabilitation would include incorporating functional exercises that are intended to activate the core. This activation will help strengthen the body’s muscles to make the muscles stronger to endure hours of repetitive posture. Some of these exercises might include; side bridges, rows, planks, cat/camel exercises, bird dog and superman extension exercises just to name a few.