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Stretching throughout the workday is essential for good health.

By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ASCM Personal Trainer

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’ve been sitting at a computer for an extended period of time.  Did you know that sitting still for a long time can cause serious health damage? OSHA says that maintaining static postures, such as viewing the monitor, for a prolonged period of time without taking a break can fatigue the muscles of the neck and shoulder that support the head. Additionally, OSHA recommends that repetitive tasks or jobs that require long periods of static posture incorporate several, short rest breaks (micro breaks or rest pauses). During these breaks you should stand, stretch, and move around. This provides rest and allows the muscles enough time to recover. Read the excerpt from Susan Seliger”s article “Stretching Exercises at Your Desk: 12 Simple Tips” at WebMD for a few of the stretches you can easily perform in your workplace to keep limber throughout the day.

Stretching Exercises You Can Do at Your Desk

  1. Just stand up and sit down — no hands
    • You might have gotten a gold star in preschool for sitting still, but it just goes to show you (best sellers notwithstanding) that not all of us learned everything we need to know in kindergarten. “If you stand up and sit down (over and over) — without using your hands — it can be a challenge,” says Smith. It’s like doing mini-squats!
  2. Substitute exercise for sitting — while you work
    • Get rid of your desk chair and substitute an exercise ball, suggests Smith. “I used it for a while when I was having low-back problems; it was great,” Smith says. “All day you are engaging all the muscles in the back, legs, butt, everything, to stay balanced.”
  3. Shrug your shoulders — to release the neck and shoulders
    • Inhale deeply and shrug your shoulders, lifting them high up to your ears. Hold. Release and drop. Repeat three times.
    • Shake your head slowly, yes and no.
  4. Loosen the hands with air circles
    • Clench both fists, stretching both hands out in front of you.
    • Make circles in the air, first in one direction, to the count of ten.
    • Then reverse the circles.
    • Shake out the hands.
  5. Point your fingers — good for hands, wrist, and forearms
    • Stretch your left hand out in front of you, pointing fingers toward the floor. Use your right hand to increase the stretch, pushing your fingers down and toward the body. Be gentle.
    • Do the same with the other hand.
    • Now stretch your left hand out straight in front, wrist bent, with fingers pointing skyward. Use your right hand to increase the stretch, pulling the fingers back toward your body.
    • Do the same on the other side.
  6. Release the upper body with a torso twist
    • Inhale and as you exhale, turn to the right and grab the back of your chair with your right hand, and grab the arm of the chair with your left.
    • With eyes level, use your grasp on the chair to help twist your torso around as far to the back of the room as possible. Hold the twist and let your eyes continue the stretch — see how far around the room you can peer.
    • Slowly come back to facing forward.
    • Repeat on the other side.
  7. Do leg extensions — work the abs and legs
    • Grab the seat of your chair to brace yourself and extend your legs straight out in front of you so they are parallel to the floor.
    • Flex and point your toes five times. Release.
    • Repeat.
  8. Stretch your back with a “big hug”
    • Hug your body, placing the right hand on your left shoulder and the left hand on your right shoulder.
    • Breathe in and out, releasing the area between your shoulder blades.
  9. Cross your arms — for the shoulders and upper back
    • Extend one arm out straight in front of you. With the other hand, grab the elbow of the outstretched arm and pull it across your chest, stretching your shoulder and upper back muscles.
    • Hold. Release.
    • Stretch out the other arm in front of you — repeat.
  10. Stretch your back and shoulders with a “leg hug”
    • Sit on the edge of your chair (if it has wheels, wedge the chair against the desk or wall to make sure it does not roll). Put your feet together, flat on the floor.
    • Lean over, chest to knees, letting your arms dangle loosely to the floor. Release your neck.
    • Now bring your hands behind your legs, right hand grasping left wrist, forearm (or elbow if you can reach that far), left hand grasping the right. Feel the stretch in your back, shoulders and neck. Hold.
    • Release your hands to the floor again.
    • Repeat three times or as often as it feels good.
  11. Look up to release upper body
    • Sit up tall in your chair, or stand up. Stretch your arms overhead and interlock your fingers.
    • Turn the palms to the ceiling as you lift your chin up, tilt your head back, and gaze up at the ceiling, too.
    • Inhale, exhale, release.
  12. Substitute walks for email — and don’t eat at your desk
    • Instead of emailing a colleague “and copying 25 people who don’t want to be copied anyway,” Smith says, “walk over to the colleague you really want to talk to.”

    Read the rest of the article at WebMD.

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By Sue Shekut, Owner, Working Well Massage, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Wellness Coach, ACSM Personal Trainer

Do you ever find yourself rubbing and stretching your wrists after a long day at work? Do you frequently have shoulder and neck tension after a long day typing and mousing?    The United States Occupational Safety & Health Administration says the culprit could easily be improper keyboard height and/or distance. Proper keyboard placement can help prevent repetition injuries, awkward posture and stress.

Keyboards that are too high or too low can lead to awkward wrist, arm, and shoulder postures. For example, when keyboards are too low you may type with your wrists bent up. When keyboards are too high, you may need to raise your shoulders to elevate your arms. Performing typing tasks in awkward postures such as these can result in hand, wrist and shoulder discomfort.

Here are some possible height-related solutions the OSHA recommends:

  • Image courtesy of OSHA

    Adjust the chair height and work surface height to maintain a neutral body posture (illustrated here). Elbows should be about the same height as the keyboard and hang comfortably to the side of the body. Shoulders should be relaxed, and wrists should not bend up or down or to either side during keyboard use.

  • Remove central pencil drawers from traditional desks if you can’t raise your chair high enough because of contact between the drawer and the top of the thighs. The work surface should generally be no more than 2 inches thick.
  • may be needed if the work surface or chair cannot be properly adjusted. The keyboard tray should:
    • Be adjustable in height and tilt,
    • Provide adequate leg and foot clearance, and
    • Have adequate space for multiple input devices (for example, a keyboard and pointer/mouse).
  • The keyboard’s vertical position should be maintained within the recommended range shown here. The tilt of the keyboard may need to be raised or lowered using the keyboard feet to maintain straight, neutral wrist postures while accommodating changes in arm angles.

    Image courtesy of OSHA

If your keyboard or mouse  is too close or too far away this may cause you to assume awkward postures such as reaching with the arms, leaning forward with the torso and extreme elbow angles. These awkward postures may lead to musculoskeletal disorders of the elbows, shoulders, hands, and wrists.

Keyboard too far away (courtesy OSHA)

Keyboard too close (courtesy OSHA)

Here are some possible distance-related solutions the OSHA recommends:

  • Place the keyboard directly in front of you at a distance that allows your elbows to stay close to your body with your forearms approximately parallel with the floor.
  • A keyboard tray may be useful if you have limited desk space or if your chair has armrests that interfere with adequate positioning.

Making these simple changes may make a world of difference for you in your workplace and your neck and shoulders. Give them a try and feel the difference!

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