Seven years ago my family and I moved to Alberta, and in addition to finding a new home, I found a new career. I spent just over 10 years as a practicing chiropractor—not a long career but long enough to see my fair share of hockey injuries, sidewalk slips and cases of “I should never have tried to lift that.” Of course, one of the other things I saw was the exponential rise of computer use and sedentary office life that seems to be the norm in today’s world—achy low backs, stiff necks, sore shoulders and stabbing wrist pain. The list could go on and on.
Once I left practice I became part of the sedentary career types—long nights writing papers to earn my master’s degree, taking a job in the health services sector and now working at ASEBP. This shift in my day-to-day activity level got me thinking about how we can keep our neuro-musculo-skeletal systems healthy.
The Home Stretch…at Work
So what can we do to try and avoid these aches and pains while we’re working at our desks?
- Get up and move. It’s best if you can break for even five minutes an hour from your workstation. Take a quick walk around the office. In addition to helping your muscles and joints, it can often clear your head and help you think more clearly.
- Be hands-free. If you’re on your phone a lot, it is best if you can get a headset. If you can’t, don’t hold the phone between your neck and shoulder while you write and or type. This habit can be particularly hard to break since most of us write and hold the phone with the same hand.
- Stretch. This one is kind of obvious but bears repeating. Just a little bit of stretching in your day can go a long way. Check out this stretching guide to lead you through a five minute kick at the can. For standing stretch inspiration, poke through the Straighten Up Alberta site and for seated stretches, read through what the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety has to offer.
- Create a culture. Many people are self-conscious about stretching in their work station. Make it a topic for a staff meeting or be an example to others and be the leader who starts the trend to stretch at work either on your own or as a group.
Easy Does it
Stretching can vastly improve our overall health and can provide a much needed mental break when we’re deep into a project at work. Here are a couple of things to remember to keep you on the path to stretching success:
- Be gentle—don’t push or pull excessively. The goal is stretch, not induce pain!
- Relax and breathe normally.
- Hold for at least 10 seconds but 20 is better!
Enjoy those tiny breaks throughout your day and help others get there with you. As a wellness champion, what are your ideas on helping to alleviate aches and pains when you're at work?