Back to School: 3 Tips to Avoid Posture Pain and Discomfort

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Summer is nearing the end and that means so long to summertime hiking, biking and swimming, and hello to back to school book reading, screen staring and desk sitting. In the classroom, proper posture can be difficult to maintain. Heavy backpacks, sitting for long periods of time and hunching over computers can all take a toll after a while. Not surprisingly, the harmful effects of poor posture and strength can lead to more serious aches and pains down the road.

Next time you sit down at your desk consider this: Your head carries the most important organ in your body—your brain. The human head weighs on average between 10-11 lbs (that’s the size of a heavy bowling ball!) so it’s important to make sure the head and neck are supported throughout the day in order to avoid pain and dysfunction. The neck is comprised of vertebra, muscles, ligaments, arteries and nerves and it needs to be strong and adaptable to carry that weight around all day long.

Keep these quick tips in mind to ensure that you maintain proper posture throughout the school year. The greater focus placed on strengthening and activating these muscles, the easier it will be for these good postural habits to become second nature!

Tip #1:

When sitting, try to keep your feet on the ground. This keeps your lower back and core in a good position to avoid stress and pressure along the rest of the spine.

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Tip #2:

Keep computer screens and reading materials in front of, and level with your eyes. This will help you avoid prolonged bending at the neck as well as reduce eye strain and potential for headaches.

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Tip #3:

Position your shoulders in a comfortable resting place when working at a desk or chair with arms. If it feels like your shoulders are up in your ears, that can put a lot of stress on your neck and potentially create problems down the road.

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Making these small adjustments in the classroom can be simple and effective. Postural changes can help you avoid injury but remember that sitting posture comes from the combination of muscle strength and activation. If you have any questions, please come see one of our skilled physical therapists so they can better examine you and get you on your way to a successful start of the school year!

Three things any human resources department can do to drastically improve employee health, happiness, and productivity

Curbing the astronomical costs of workers compensation costs has proven to be an incredibly challenging task. It is estimated that works compensation costs have reached nearly $250 Billion, that’s Billion, with a B! That means that workplace illness and injury costs has exceeded that of cancer, diabetes, and strokes. While these are staggering numbers there are multiple factors that go into health, illness, and the associated costs. One factor that is often discussed is work place ergonomics. Ergonomics is actually the study of people’s efficiency in their work place, but is often talked about regarding sitting positions, desk height, etc. Following along those same lines, I think there are three effective ways that work place health can be improved and efficiency increased.

Annual individualized movement assessments

We are all familiar with going to the doctor’s office for a physical. Typically this involves checking body weight, blood pressure, heart rate, listening to you breath, and a conversation about lifestyle choices that may be impacting your health. All of these are helpful metrics for placing you into a category of “health.” But shouldn’t we also regularly check our ability to move and the quality in which we engage in our environment? Many of the injuries I see in the clinic are related to issues with movement, either too much or not enough, and the loads that the body is experiencing. We shouldn’t just focus on the ability for you to move well but the capacity to continue to move well throughout the day, week, month as various levels of stress and fatigue set in. To best identify how well your body is prepared to meet the demands of life and your job it is helpful to have a movement assessment performed.

Individualized exercise, daily stretching/movement in the work place

We’ve all seen the charts that highlight stretching routines for office workers or low back stretching for manual labor workers. While the charts often have good content to them, they are produced in the thousands and have no specificity to them. The individual worker needs an individualized work station program. This would be based up their assessment, their physical capacity, and the individual demands of the work environment. Not all office jobs are the same nor are all physical labor jobs the same. Plus people move differently for a variety of reasons so I wouldn’t want to generalize an exercise routine for a group of people that do similar tasks.

Allocate time for exercise

Whoa, wait, pay people to exercise? Yup! I’m not suggesting 2 hours a day for a paid exercise break, but providing individuals with the opportunity to work on their individualized programs is a perfect way to ensure they have the time to do it. For most people they will want to, and likely need to, spend more time out of work addressing their individual health and wellness goals, but an opportunity each day to break, move, and improve their general wellness is an excellent way keep a workforce happy, healthy, and productive.

I know there are quite a few organizations that provide great opportunities for the employees in an effort to promote a strong health and wellness work culture. What I’ve outlined are just a few different variables that can continue to promote a health work force.  It is also important to remember that an individual plan is a great opportunity to empower people to be proactive in their approach to health and wellness. Where most people can feel overwhelmed and often lost, simple steps can be implemented to help give everyone the tools they need to succeed.