Friday, January 16, 2009

Stop the pain

Small changes can make big fixes ...

"Whoever thought just sitting in a chair could be bad for you?

But all that time we spend hunched over a computer at work all day can cause a lot of problems.

“If you sit improperly, you can change the primary curves in the back,” said Dr. Raymond Bailey of Albany’s Bailey Chiropractic Center.

“The spine is like a frame of a house,” Bailey said. “If it’s crooked, the house — which is your body — would be crooked.”

That can cause some damage.

“It causes what we call a crick in your neck,” Bailey said.

And the effects don’t stop there.

“It can cause back of the head headaches,” Bailey said.

If the problem isn’t corrected, those headaches can get worse — even to the point of migraines.

“They really become chronic,” Bailey said.

As if that’s not enough, prolonged or improper sitting can affect the legs, too.

“It can cause circulating problems,” Bailey said, “like varicose veins.”

Some 30-50 percent of Bailey’s patients come in with problems caused by sitting too long or improperly at work.

“I think it’s prominent,” Bailey said.

Dr. Troy Alderman of Southwest Georgia Medical Center agreed, saying he also sees his share of problems connected to improper posture at work.

“We treat patients daily,” he said.

These afflictions have several causes — all of which can be remedied very easily with “simple changes at work,” Alderman said. “Proper ergonomics can reduce stress on the back muscles and spine.”

According to Bailey, one of those changes is pretty easy.

“Take some frequent posture breaks,” he said, offering every 1 1/2 hours as a good time frame between breaks.

But Alderman believes stopping more often is beneficial.

“Try not to sit for 20 minutes without moving,” he said. “Change positions, stand or do light stretches.”

Bailey offered one such stretch that doesn’t require you to leave your seat.

“Put your hands behind your neck and lean back into your hands,” he said. “That helps strengthen the muscles in your neck.”

Other suggestions Bailey offered include rotating your head in a clockwise motion, alternately pulling each elbow across the chest or alternately putting each elbow behind the head and gently pulling the elbow behind the back until you feel a stretch.

An important change to the state of your neck and back health rests in where and and how you sit.

“Look at how you’re sitting in your chair,” Alderman said.

He pointed out that the armrests should be positioned so that your elbows are positioned at a 90-degree angle and your wrists are able to rest on the computer’s keyboard.

“Stand to the side and look at the angle of your elbow,” Alderman said.

If the elbow doesn’t sit at the right level, it’s easy to fix.

“You can adjust the armrests on your chair,” Alderman said.

While you’re in adjusting mode, go ahead and move the seat of your chair to make sure your computer screen is at eye level.

Not sure what that level exactly is?

“Close your eyes, then open them and gaze at your computer screen,” Alderman said. “Your eyes should be aimed at the center of the screen.”

“The screen should be a 20-degree angle down from your eye,” Bailey added, explaining that you should never have to look up to see your computer screen.

If that’s not the case, simply adjust the height of either your chair or your computer screen until your eyes do meet the center of your computer screen.

Just by establishing a comfortable eye level when working at your computer, you can reduce or eliminate neck strains and any subsequent problems they may create.

But adjusting your eye level is just one way to prevent back problems. Another is simply sitting correctly in your chair.

“Make sure your bottom is pressed up against the back of the chair,” Alderman said.

He explained that doing so will help create an arch in your spine, which is what you want.

“The back has a normal curve,” Alderman said, explaining that the sitting with your back against your chair will give it the support it needs. “It puts you in proper ergonomics.”

If you can’t seem to kick the habit of slumping or slouching at your chair, Bailey suggested putting a small pillow between your lower back and your chair.

“It will give you some cushion,” he said, “and it tends to make you aware of proper posture.”

That 90-degree angle that Alderman mentioned earlier is also useful when considering your lower torso, as you should also keep your legs positioned so your calves and thighs rest at 90 degrees from each other. Doing so prevents or reduces strain on the limbs.

“That just takes away stress,” Alderman said."    (Continued via albanyherald.com)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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