The downloadable version of Pain Free at Work is available at Udemy.com. This is a really cool site with all sorts of interesting courses. You can learn how to use Excel, publish an eBook, improve your photography skills, practice yoga… you name it. Membership is free and the prices vary per course. Pain Free at Work is regularly $19.00, but is now available for download for $9.00 if you use the code “Reboot”. That is a savings of over 50% of the regular price! The great thing about this website is that, after you purchase a course, you can access it from any computer, anywhere. This means you can do your exercises on the road, at home or at work. Click here to go to Udemy.com
Most of us try to get our daily exercise checked off our “to do” list either before or after work. We do this with the hopes of staving off health problems like diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol. However, a recent study from the University of South Carolina suggests that, if you spend most of your day sitting, daily exercise may not be enough. Researchers at the university found that men who were sedentary for more than 23 hours a week had a greater risk of dying from heat disease (by a whopping 64%) than those men who only sat for less than 11 hours a week. And these were mostly men who exercises regularly. If you imagine that someone is a weekend warrior and doesn’t sit at all on weekends, those numbers suggest that sitting for 5 hours a day during the work week makes you 64 percent more likely to die of heat disease. Yicks! Most people I know sit at a computer for more than 5 hours a day.
So what are we to do? We can’t stop working (or going to school) and computers are not going anywhere soon… Most forms of transportation to get to work or school involve sitting. We need a little relaxing down time after work and most of us find that sitting in front of the t.v. is the perfect antidote to the stresses of the day. So we sit… a lot.
Sitting has become a necessary part of our life, but there are ways to reduce the detrimental effects of being stationary. Here are some ways to work to beat the sitting blues:
Keep up with your exercise routine before or after work
Go for a 15 minute brisk walk on your lunch break
Take the stairs
Don’t email the person down the hall at work. Get up and go talk to them in person.
Take a phone call standing up.
Get an adjustable desk that allows you to either sit or stand to work.
Get a computer rest break program installed on your home and work computer and use it to remember to take micro-breaks (15 second breaks as well as longer, 5-minute breaks).
Decrease your t.v. watching time from 7 days a week to 4 or 5 days a week. Go for a walk instead or clean out the garage. Do something other than sitting.
All of these measures will not only help to decrease your chances of heart disease, but they will also decrease your pain levels associated with sitting. In a 2011 study published by the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, office workers in Portugal who added 15-minute stretching exercises, three times a week to their work routine reported less pain in areas of the body that were bothering them (such as wrist, back and neck) when compared to workers in the same office who did not do the stretching exercises.
Technology is changing the way we do business and, in turn, we need to change the way we treat our bodies to accommodate for the excess sitting and typing. Move more and try to fit physical activity into your day wherever and whenever possible. The more breaks you take that get you up and moving, the healthier you will be and the less neck pain, back pain and wrist pain you will have.
This just in… slouching is bad for you. Whether you are sitting or standing, slouching can do one or all of the following:
1. Injure vertebral discs in the neck, mid and lower back.
2. Decrease blood flow to the extremities of the body and therefore cause arm, hand or leg pain.
3. Make you look older.
4. Make you look tired and less confident.
5. Decrease the ability of your lungs to take in air properly and, therefore, make you more fatigued.
6. Cause headaches
7. Cause poor digestion
8. Affect your mood and can lead to depression
9. Mid-back burning sensations
10. Neck and back pain
Improving your posture is no easy task. I am constantly trying to work on mine. My job is such that I send most of my day hunched over a person on a treatment table and, when I am not doing that, I am hunched over a computer – writing about being hunched over a treatment table. Lots o hunching going on. And, in fact, most jobs these days involve a lot of sitting (either driving or at a desk) or standing in one place looking down for prolonged periods of time (such as grocery store employees or assembly line workers). As I said, lots o hunching going on.
People commonly get frustrated (myself included) when they are trying to correct their posture because, like most habits, the slouching is difficult to stop. Perhaps a discussion on why we slouch might shed some light on the issue and make it easier to kick the bad habit.
Slouching occurs for one or more of the following reasons:
- Weak back muscles
- Tight chest muscles
- Tight hamstring muscles
- Tight thoracic spine
- Poor ergonomic set up
- Poor seat/chair form (think about the bucket seats in older cars)
- Poor vision
- Poor hearing
I created the Pain Free at Work DVD to show people what to do about the muscle imbalances, tight thoracic spine and ergonomic issues that can negatively affect posture. There are exercises, stretches and educational information in the DVD that will help beat the poor posture blues.
Poor hearing and poor vision are two additional factors that are common and yet, commonly overlooked. If you cannot see the street signs or the words on your monitor clearly, chances are you will lean in and slouch forward in order to see what is in front of you. Having a regular eye exam is important. I also recommend decreasing any glare coming from behind your monitor to improve your vision. Poor hearing is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Here is a little known fact about me – and one I will now proudly share – I wear hearing aides. I’ve been wearing them consistently now for over a year and I can tell you that it has helped my posture enormously. I was born with a low-tone frequency hearing loss that I ignored for most of my life. I finally took action because it was forcing me to strain forward to hear my patients as they laid on my treatment table. If you suspect a vision or hearing problem affecting the way you work, don’t delay and take the necessary actions to correct the problem. Straining to hear or see throughout your day will cause you to slouch and we all know how bad for you that is.
As a physical therapist, I see many people with chronic pain. And over the last couple of years, I have seen just as many people with chronic stress. I believe that the increased emphasis on technology in our society (as well as a poor economy) has created less breaks in our work schedules and more unrealistic expectations from our employers. Unfortunately, chronic pain and chronic stress look very much alike and have similar negative consequences.
Both chronic pain and chronic stress involve three factors: Perception, an emotional component and a physiological reaction. It is the physiological manifestations of pain and stress that cause the long term diseases; Increased muscle tension, increase blood pressure, poor eating habits, decreased breathing and poor oxygen exchange, increased heart rate and increased levels of the hormone, Cortisol. . Research shows that both chronic pain and chronic stress negatively affect memory and thought processes. Both chronic pain and chronic stress AGES your brain. They also hamper creativity and productivity.
With chronic pain, the brain looks different. There is a change in the brain’s ability to process chronic pain – the nerves in the spinal cord actually become more easily excited by even the smallest amount of pain. So chronic pain makes you more susceptible to pain and, I believe, the same is true for stress. Stress leads to more stress. You get stuck in a vicious cycle. Because of a reprogramming of the central nervous system, you can no longer handle even the most minor stressful situations.
From the research on chronic pain, we can extrapolate that stress may be best treated by re-conditioning the brain – hitting the “re-do” button if you will- in the part of your brain that analyses stress. To do this you must create moments when your attention is sufficiently drawn away from stress that you are almost stress free.
For a lot of us, this only happens when we are on vacation. Even weekends are no longer sacred time off from stress and responsibility. Most people feel better physically and mentally while on vacation. The question becomes, how do we recreate that “vacation state of mind” on a daily basis?
In a recorded, free phone call, myself, PR expert Lisa Elia and expressionist painter Amadea Bailey explore ways to re-condition the brain by moving your attention away from stress. What can you do on a daily basis to handle stress with grace so that you can function at your best, most creative self? Time pressure and overwhelm zap us of energy and creativity. In the call, you will learn ways to create a state of relaxation – even in the face of everyday stressors so that you can fuel your creative fire and be on vacation (sort of) everyday.
Simply click on the link below, register (it is free) and listen to the call recording.
Wrist pain is often associated with poor posture. Whether you are driving or working at a computer, poor posture will decrease the proper flow of blood to the arms and hands and can, eventually, lead to wrist problems. Two great ways to improve posture are Yoga and Pilates. Ironically though, both of these exercise methods involve a lot of weight bearing on the hands and can aggravate wrist pain. Enter a new solution …
Wrist Assured Gloves (WAGs). These are special workout gloves that have a built-in, contoured gel pad and are specifically designed to provide joint protection and comfort. They were created by Occupational Therapist, Paula Wilbert and will ease wrist strain during any weight bearing activity by keeping your wrist in the proper alignment. You can get more information on these great gloves at www.getWAGs.com
I designed a joint-friendly exercise routine for the Nov/Dec 2010 Issue of Canada’s Best Health Magazine. This simple exercise program does not require any special equipment (beyond hand weights and a chair) and will help to protect knees, hips and shoulders from joint degeneration and decrease arthritic pain. Remember that strengthening the muscles around a joint, which support and protect the joint, will decrease your chance of wear and tear on the body as well as chronic degeneration and pain in a joint. The web version of the article is available here.
During my three days at the Corporate Wellness Conference in Los Angeles last month, I sat in on a discussion given by Buck Consultants. This was a fascinating review of a survey they had taken on Wellness Programs. The goal of the survey was to find out what factors drive wellness programs and to compare those variables cross-culturally. 47 countries participated in the survey. The discussion was much more comprehensive than what I will share with you here. I will spare you the details and give you the information you can use to
- improve your wellness program goals
- improve compliance rates
- save your company money
So what is driving the implementation of wellness programs?? Well, in the US, it is health care costs. In the rest of the world, it is productivity, absence and morale.
What health issues are corporations focusing on?? In the US, it is exercise. In the rest of the world, it is stress.
Do you need to spend a lot of money on incentives to get good HRA compliance rates? NO. IF (and I repeat, IF) your company demonstrates good support of the wellness program from the top executives and there is good communication within the company, you don’t have to spend as much money on incentives to get the same compliance rates as companies who don’t have internal, top-down support.
What incentives work best?? This is a difficult question to answer. As the guys at Buck Consultants pointed out, one incentive might work like gangbusters for one company and not work at all for another. What the survey did reveal is that benefit-integrated incentives produce better program compliance than cash incentives. So it is better to offer a lower rate on an employee’s monthly health care premium, than to give an employee a gift card as incentive for healthy behaviors.
So lots of beneficial information there to help you fine-tune your wellness program and improve your ROI. Leave me a comment if you implement any changes based on what you have read here. I would love to know how your company is doing.
Go to www.bucksurveys.com if you want more detailed information.
This morning, I had the pleasure of being a guest on the Radio Show “A Balanced Life”, hosted by Beth Aldrich and Tracey Mallett. Beth is is the founder of For Her Information Media, LLC and Real Moms Love To Eat. She is a healthy lifestyle and green living expert, writer, blogger… the list goes on. Beth is also the founder of Restoring Essence Nutrition, LLC and a Certified Holistic Health and Nutritional Counselor through the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP).
Tracey Mallett is a lifestyle and fitness expert, host of several fitness DVDs and the author of “Sexy in Six” and “Super Fit Mama”.
Check out these links to learn more about these amazing women.
To listen to my guest spot on A Balanced Life Radio, click on the link below and on the 10/06/10 podcast. We cover several topics from preventing knee pain, to avoiding repetitive strain injuries, to making sure your kids develop good computer habits that will prevent pain syndromes later on in life.
I just got back from a 3-day Corporate Wellness Conference put on in Los Angeles, CA by Corporate Wellness Magazine. I met some interesting people – mostly corporate wellness company execs, along with some insurance brokers and other wellness-related companies. There was a lot of discussion on the topic of “biometrics”. Wellness companies are obsessed with monitoring their employees body mass index (BMI), cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and blood pressure. The idea is that heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and cancer are increasing company health care costs. This was my first time at a wellness event and what I found out is that the term “wellness” is reserved for treating and preventing chronic DISEASE, while the term “health” is used when referring to chronic PAIN. Now, here is the interesting thing about the corporate wellness people I met – No one recognizes the fact that you cannot separate “wellness” from “health”. Well, OK, they recognize that the two aspects of health are related, but they simply do not want to deal with it. There is this sort of “that is another department” attitude.
The bottom line is that no employee is going to have the motivation, drive or willpower to eat right and exercise if they are in pain. In order to reduce and manage the incidents of diabetes, heart problems, stroke and most cancers, employees need to get more active, lose weight and eat right. But sticking to an exercise program and staying away from the chocolate bar in the vending machine takes energy and persistence. If you have headaches, neck pain, back pain or knee pain from the work that you do, it will be unlikely that you will have it in you to participate fulling in a corporate wellness program.
From my PT perspective – working with patients everyday who complain about pain that is work-related – the first step is to make sure employees are comfortable at their desks and on their feet. Then you can focus on wellness issues. A company that combines both wellness and health initiatives in the workplace and makes sure that both facets of employee well being work together, will have better benefits all around. Not only will health care costs be reduced, but so will absences. There will be an increase in productivity, presenteeism and morale. Everybody wins!
The Back to School time of year is here again and with it comes feelings of renewal and promise. For me, back to school is even better than New Year’s for setting resolutions. Something about returning to a regular schedule demands refocus and stimulates change. The goals of Back to School resolutions are to recapture (or maintain) those feelings of lightness, calm and relaxation you experience during your summer vacation. Come September, you may not be able to push the pause button on stress as you did on vacation, but you can make changes that will decrease the aches and pains of desk work, improve your mood and energy and make you less desperate for your next vacation.
Here are some of my favorite back to work resolutions (try one or two and see how great you will feel):
1. Learn how to type properly.
If you have to look down at the keys in order to type at your computer, you are putting excessive strain on your neck joints and are at risk for a disc herniation.
Try free online typing classes at GoodTyping.com
2. Schedule a daily “No Screen Time”.
This means no computers, no TV and no video games for a set period of time every day. I recommend 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. as an ideal time to escape from technology. This policy will help you have less pain and stress, as well as be more active and relaxed – all in the middle of a work week.
3. Take more mini-breaks at work.
A study on data entry operators found that several short, 5-minute breaks were more effective at decreasing discomfort than a traditional break schedule. I recommend downloading the RSI Guard Computer Rest Program onto your computer. It will tell you when it is time to take micro-breaks, remind you to stay relaxed and show you desk stretches during longer break periods.
4. Get some form of physical activity during your work day.
In his book Brain Rules, John Medina calls exercise “cognitive candy”. I love that!
Try a brisk 10-minute walk during a meeting with a coworker, a game of basketball during lunch, 20 minutes of upper body weights while on a conference call… Whatever your preference and however you can fit it in, exercising at work can stimulate creativity, help you solve a problem and improve energy and productivity.
5. Drink more water at work.
Why? Because staying hydrated will decrease headaches, help you lose weight and give you a good reason to get up from your desk and move around (to re-fill your glass or use the restroom).
Make healthy choices now and you won’t even need to make a New Year’s Resolution later!