Occupational Health Physiotherapist and Ergonomist, Carol Deasy has kindly shared her knowledge on ways to prevent onset MSK issues both at work and in your everyday lives.
April 29th is national “Wellness At Work” day. It provides a great opportunity for businesses to highlight available wellbeing supports for their staff, whether they be in the workplace, working from home or adopting a hybrid-working model.
There are many ways that you are able to reduce your risk of developing a MSK condition, both in and out of the workplace environment.
If you are in an office or have a home office – Get your desk right
Setting up your workstation correctly is a key step to the prevention of MSK issues. See some tips below on how your work station measures up:
- Your eyes should be looking at the top 1/3rd of your screens for example: when looking at an excel sheet your eyes should automatically be drawn to the tool bar at the top of the screen rather than the middle of the screen.
- Make sure your feet are placed flat on the floor, don’t let them dangle. If you can’t rest your feet flat on the floor, use a foot rest
- Arrange commonly used items within easy reach on your desk
- Your elbows should be resting comfortably at 90 degree angles
- Keep your shoulders relaxed and sit comfortably
- Make sure your screen is at least an arm’s length away so that you avoid eye strain
- Keep your chin tucked so that you align your neck as opposed to poking your head out and causing excess pressure on your neck
In the office/home office/on-site – Movement is Medicine
By sitting less and moving more, you are going to increase your calorie expenditure, this will result in a reduction of excess body fat. A study discovered a link between a lower BMI, reduced risk of developing MSK symptoms and a quicker recovery period from symptoms. Try some of these out and see how easy it is to add exercise into your day:
- Use the stairs
- If you have a question for a colleague get up and ask them in person rather than an email or phone call
- When you take a phone call, stand up
- Hold walking meetings outside with your team
- Park further away in car parks
Alternatively, why not try and fit in an Active 10 minutes; medical professionals are encouraging you to go for 3 bouts of 10 minutes of brisk walking. For a walk to qualify as brisk, you must reach a level where your heart rate increases, breathing becomes harder and your body temperature will increase. This means that your heart is having to work harder to pump oxygenated blood to the working areas, resulting in your cardiovascular system becoming stronger.
Strength training is very important for injury prevention, it improves the strength of muscles, tendons and also increases bone density. These increased strength levels help to hold the body in proper alignment, protecting the bones and joints when moving or under impact. Strengthening specific muscles also helps maintain your posture, which can help to prevent the onset of MSK issues as a result of desk based work or lifting and carrying items at work.
Improve your mobility and flexibility
These terms refer to the amount of movement available at a joint e.g. the flexibility at the shoulder joint is determined by the range of motion of the arm through its permitted range of movement. Flexibility is extremely important and often overlooked when it comes to injury prevention. It helps our body maintain balance, muscles work in pairs – agonist and antagonist – to aid a joints movement. If one of these muscles flexibility is reduced then the movement of the joint is compromised, leaving you more susceptible to injury. A common example of reduced flexibility causing injury is the shoulder joint. If the chest muscles are shortened through frequent slouching at a desk, this pulls the shoulder joint forwards. If the shoulder retractors (i.e. lower traps and serratus anterior) are not strong enough to counteract this force, the joint moves forwards, affecting the mechanics of the shoulder and reducing the space in the joint, often resulting in shoulder impingement syndrome.
Using stretching techniques and mobility exercises while working can all be combined to help improve your flexibility.
Taking some time for yourself to move, stretch and strengthen your body can go a long way. Preventing the onset of MSK issues means that you can stay healthy, allowing you to enjoy everything you want to in life, playing sports with your children, going out with friends or talking the dog for long walks. All activities that can be affected by a MSK injury, make time for it now, or be prepared to take time later.