"The little aches and pains of life are something we all feel from time to time. But, if not corrected, eventually those little twinges may add up to big problems down the line. As one who sees the results of a lifetime of bad habits, Lufkin chiropractor, Dr. Tina Alvey, says half of what brings patients in to see her is not caused by the big things they're doing, but by the little things they do. "The big things are in the little things," she says.
By "little things" Alvey means the bad posture, repetitive movements, and environmental factors that add stress to our bodies a little at a time, until one day a major problem arises seemingly from nowhere. "They put more and more stress on an area until they find the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back," she explains.
Warning signs you may be headed for trouble include neck and shoulder pain, tightness of the muscles, headaches, numbness or tingling in the hands and fingers, burning sensations, pain between the shoulder blades, sharp pain in the lower back or aches and stiffness you can't get away from, Alvey says.
Because these symptoms gradually grow worse over time, many people do not realize they are living day to day with unnecessary pain. "They slowly become adjusted to it and they begin to think that pain is normal for them," Alvey says.
Applying simple rules of ergonomics — the science of fitting the environment to the person — may help resolve or prevent some of the most common problems she frequently sees, Alvey says. "However, it's important to recognize that even the most ergonomically-friendly environment will not prevent repetitive stress injuries if the body is simply overworked."
Alvey offers some tips for the places we spend the most time: at work, at home and in the car.
Sitting at a desk for eight hours a day, five days a week, might not seem as if it could be harmful to your body, but if you have adapted to your workspace rather than adapted your workspace to you, that fatigue you feel at the end of the day might be more than a mental drain. To set up your workspace, start with your arm position, then work from there.
* Set chair height so arms are in a neutral position — 90 degrees or a little more. "Most people's chairs are too low or too high," Alvey says. "If you're hiking your shoulders up, you're at the wrong point. Your arms should not be lower than your elbows."
* Check leg position. If your legs dangle after correcting your chair height, consider purchasing a breast-feeding stool on which to rest your feet to prevent sciatic nerve pain. "They're at the perfect angle for your feet, but old phone books will also do," Alvey says.
* Adjust your chair and sit properly. If your seat leans too far back, you will curl forward to compensate, Alvey says. Other mistakes are chairs not being placed close enough to the desk and sitting on the edge of the chair, which overloads the muscles.
* Position your monitor. Your screen should be in front of you, not to the side, and about an arm's length away.
* Put your phone where it can be easily reached without having to twist, bend or overly stretch. If you need to have your hands free while on the phone, use a headset device or a speakerphone." (Continued via Lufkin Daily News, Denise Hoepener) [Ergonomics Resources]