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You knew that cradling the phone receiver between your neck and head would free up your hands to do other things. But you didn’t think massaging the resulting stiffness in your neck would be one of them. Or maybe you didn’t mind bending at the waist to pick up that heavy package. At least not until that steady throb in your back made you wish you hadn’t.
Such aches and pains stem from “micro-tears in the muscles, resulting in destruction of your structural system,” says Vadnee Sanders Jefferson, a doctor of chiropractic and consultant for BackSafe, a Santa Barbara, California-based injury prevention and ergonomic design company. This damage is the result of improper biomechanics or repetitive action. “After a time, problems will arise due to improper posture, poor conditioning and repetitive stress.”
Jefferson says that BackSafe believes that education and body-friendly office furniture are the solution to these common work-related problems. After analysis of job habits and training about improper physical activity on the job as well as redesigned equipment by BackSafe, United Airlines saw back and neck injuries decrease 63% over a two-year period.
To help relieve work-related body strain, Jefferson suggests incorporating the following into your daily routine:
- If you need free hands while on the phone, consider using a headset or speakerphone. This will cut down on unnecessary neck strain.
- Use an ergonomically correct keyboard and mouse at your computer to help reduce the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Keep your computer monitor at eye level and your feet planted firmly on the floor. Choose a chair that is comfortable enough to read a book in.
- Stretch your body and fingers regularly (see “Take a Stretch Break!” Motivation, April 1999).