In previous articles we explore the different types of ergonomic equipment, the benefits of such equipment and how to set your equipment up correctly. This week we want to look at how you can make your workstation as comfortable as possible including desk stretches.
Are you in physical pain in your workplace?
Work-related illnesses are not exclusive to heavy industry or construction. They can happen in various kinds of workplaces and industries, including offices. According to research, musculoskeletal disorders (MSK’s) can be triggered by or made worse by repetitive movements, bad posture, and maintaining the same position.
The routines we develop at work, particularly while sitting, might lead to discomfort and health problems.
An everyday desk job involves performing repetitive tasks while seated (typically in a sedentary position). The routines we develop at work, particularly while sitting, might lead to discomfort and health problems, including:
- neck and shoulder pain
- musculoskeletal disorders
- lower back pain
- carpal tunnel syndrome
Research by the Mayo Clinic, shows that more than four hours a day of screen time can increase your risk of death by any cause by 50 percent. There’s also a 125 percent risk for cardiovascular disease.
The good news is that getting into the habit of stretching or moving around can help alleviate some of these issues. We recommend setting a timer to alert to notify you when it’s time to stretch or go for a little stroll https://pomofocus.io/ . There are even certain stretches you can perform at your desk.
Never hold your breath during the stretches; just remember to breathe normally. You can discover that you become more flexible with each stretch. Limit your movement to what is comfortable for you.
Here are some of our top desk stretches to get you started:
- Sitting back extensions
- Sit straight with your feet together as comfortably as possible
- Put the palms of your hands into the small of your back
- Lean back over your hands, feeling your lower back stretch out
- Shoulder stretches:
- Place one hand under your elbow
- Lift your elbow and stretch it across your chest. Don’t rotate your body as you stretch
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. You’ll feel tension in the back of your shoulder
- Relax and slowly return to the starting position
- Repeat the stretch with the other arm
- Upper arm stretch
- Lift one arm and bend it behind your head.
- Place your other hand on the bent elbow to help stretch your upper arm and shoulder.
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
- Relax and slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat the stretch with the other arm.
- Tricep stretches:
- Raise your arm and bend it so that your hand reaches toward the opposite side
- Use your other hand and pull the elbow toward your head
- Hold for 10 to 30 seconds
- Repeat on the other side
- Spinal rotation
- While seated, cross your arms over your chest
- Grab your shoulders
- Rotate your upper body from the waist, turning gently from left to right as far as feels comfortable
- You should feel a tension on both side of your lower back as it stretches out
- Chest stretch
- Place your hands behind your head
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together, bringing your elbows back as far as possible
- Hold the stretch for 30 seconds
- Relax and slowly return to the starting position.
- Neck rotations
- Keep your head upright
- Gently turn your head from side to side
- As you turn your head, try to move it past your shoulder
- You should feel the muscles on the outside of your neck gradually stretching
- Torso stretch
- Keep your feet firmly on the ground, facing forward
- Lace your fingers together and stretch them up towards the ceiling
- Remember to take a deep breath as you stretch up as high as you can, then exhale and open the arms
- Repeat 10 times
Verywell Fit has also promoted the benefits of yoga before and after work and has produced a list of 7 stretches to relieve tension viewable here.
What are the benefits of desk stretches?
Sitting for long periods of time shortens the pelvic muscles and compresses the spine, putting more strain on the discs.
The stretches highlighted above can prevent injuries to your low back, shoulders, knees, elbows, and wrists, as well as to your stress levels and, possibly, your productivity, by stretching frequently throughout the course of the workday.
Many employees are reluctant to stretch while at work but have realised the value of maintaining blood flow, good nutrition supply and improved energy levels.
What are the benefits of taking regular breaks?
Taking regular breaks from your workstation is vital for your eyes as well as your mind and body, in addition to stretching.
Here are some of our break recommendations:
- Let your hands hang by your sides as you take shoulder and hand breaks: In between periods of serious concentration or typing, roll your shoulders while keeping a tall neutral spine.
- Breathing and eye breaks: Shift your attention away from your computer or paperwork and toward the furthest location in your office that you can view. Be sure to blink quickly for a few seconds, then close your eyes and take a minute or two to breathe deeply.
- Exercise breaks: Go for a quick stroll outside and do the stretches in the middle of the day or after spending more than an hour at your desk. If you can’t go outside, climb and descend a few flights of stairs.
- Walkabout breaks: Get up and take a little stroll every 30 minutes. Get a drink, chat with a colleague you were going to email, or go to the opposite end of your office and take a look around.
- Consider a sit-to-stand desk: An ergonomic desk will allow you to change your position and support the health of your spine. Alternately, replace your office chair with an exercise ball. This will force you to maintain your balance by using your core muscles. You can view our desk range here!
We interviewed Head of Ergonomics, Chris Barlow to gather his thoughts on desk stretches and why preventative action really is the best way forward for better workplace health and wellbeing:
“In my experience, businesses frequently respond to an increase in musculoskeletal injuries by looking for a quick fix solution to stop them. Unfortunately, there is no such thing. Employers may carry out an ergonomic assessment, hold a training session, or implement pre-shift stretching.
All of these are great steps to take, but it’s a mistake to think that one of them will be enough to improve long-term health and safety.
There is no one solution to stop soft tissue injuries because humans are multi-dimensional and interactions between people, tools, and work processes are complicated. We offer reliable DSE assessments, professional recommendations and ongoing support to ensure workstations are safe and comfortable for a range of employees, but the most important thing ironically isn’t a bunch of new equipment. It’s getting your team moving more regularly. Stretches, yoga, walking to the shop instead of driving at lunch. All these activities help you move away from the sedentary postures we end up staying in for prolonged periods during the day. Quite simply, the most important piece of advice I could give is to get off your a**e!”
Why are desk stretches so important?
According to a 2009 article in Medical News Today, sitting or remaining inactive can put 40% more pressure on spinal discs than standing. When someone stands up after spending a lot of time sitting down, the body is forced forward and off-balance, putting stress on the bones and muscles. As a result, the pelvic muscles become tense.
Their research also shows that being overweight can further throw the spine out of neutral position, emphasising the natural curves of the back and putting stress on the lower back muscles as they attempt to balance the body.
Health officials have recommended minimum levels of physical activity for the adult working population in guidelines, but they haven’t gone as far as to advise people to attempt to limit how much time they spend sitting down.
We know from research and workplace injuries that something needs to change. That’s where we come in. We offer disability awareness training, assistive technology training, disability inclusion training and professional DSE assessments.
A DSE assessment explores the impact of the individuals’ difficulties in the workplace and identifies tailored support strategies to help them thrive in their roles. It includes the demonstration of innovative assistive technology software and specialist equipment, as well as advice and strategies on movement, breaks, and digital eye strain relief techniques. The assessment is followed up with individualised report detailing all of the recommended strategies.
In an earlier article we looked at whether a DSE assessment is a legal requirement. It’s critical to understand that completing a DSE assessment isn’t merely a ‘tick box’ exercise. Workstations that are cluttered or set up poorly can cause neck, shoulder, back, and arm difficulties, as well as weariness and eyestrain. For this reason, we recommend having a DSE assessment at least once a year. Check out the full article here.
Education and training
We always promote education and training to help your team members become more knowledgeable and skilled. Your educational and training initiatives need to include instruction in ergonomics, proper body mechanics, correct job techniques, and good health and hygiene practices. If you need any further support, contact our friendly team.
To increase team members’ knowledge and abilities and enable them to make informed judgments and take appropriate action, education and training are necessary. Warm-up and stretching exercises complement rather than replace team member education and training.
Designing a workspace to accommodate team members’ strengths and limits is known as ergonomics. The objective is to ensure that the task fits the worker, thereby lowering the risk of harm and enhancing safety, productivity, and work quality.
Workplace risk factors are identified and managed through the ergonomics approach. Warm-up and stretching activities complement ergonomics improvement processes rather than replacing them. Education is key. We deliver disability awareness training, assistive technology training and disability inclusion training as well as DSE and health and safety training as part of our e-learning platform. For more information on any of these services visit the relevant pages.
Fostering a culture of teamwork, safety, and health
As part of better workplace wellbeing, we always promote a culture of teamwork, safety, and health.
Remind team members that you prioritise their health and safety when they report to work, this most definitely includes your homeworkers. Give them the valuable time they need to get their bodies and minds ready for work.
Employee engagement is a concern for businesses across the UK. Many employees don’t think their employer has their best interests in mind, which contributes to this in part.
We can offer workplace talks and content to include staff in the process and promote better health and safety at the workplace and for employees working from home.
If you are wondering what your responsibilities are as an employer for remote workers an earlier blog of ours explains what is expected from you as an organisation and how you can best look after employee health and wellbeing. View the full article here.
Along with the stretches recommended above, “active” sitting helps keep your body moving and stops the pain brought on by inactivity. For example, once an hour or more often, swivel your seat from side to side and occasionally lean back in your chair.
Be cautious if you incorporate a new workout into your everyday routine and start to feel pain or discomfort contact your doctor.
Stretching increases muscle suppleness, which in turn increases muscle control, range of motion, and flexibility.
Regular stretching is one of those fundamental routines. Stretching improves physical well-being as a whole and helps keep employees’ musculoskeletal conditions at bay.
Stretching muscles improves blood flow, realigns soft tissue structures, and develops muscle coordination.
While working, we advise taking regular, brief breaks to stretch. Consider using stretch breaks as an opportunity to cultivate relaxation. Between jobs, take a step back to stretch out your muscles, unwind, and take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing increases blood oxygen levels, which promotes relaxation.
If you have a question about any of our ergonomic items or would like to book a FREE consultation with one of our experts email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.